Body image is such a wacky brain thing. I worked hard, felt my clothes getting crazy loose, looked in the mirror, but I saw the same pudge that I have always seen before. I have to do something special with the 3-pound processor I have upstairs, switching from an emotional look in the looking glass to a logical one. Yet, still, that's one of the most difficult things to do being logical with weight loss. I've worked so long on myself, fighting for every ounce I've ever lost and have gone some months without losing anything despite killing myself in the gym and in the kitchen. I never did put much stock into the BMI scale, except that I was always in that 25.1 and above category. That's the "overweight" range if anyone doesn't want to look it up and check. That is two-tenths of a percent to being in the "normal" range, and those two-tenths just ate at me. My lowest on the BMI scale had always been stuck at that stupid 25.1 and my highest has been a 33, which is the "obese" category, so I have worked myself down from there. <Pat on the Back Inserted Here.> I have been in the overweight to obese categories since late junior high and high school. I couldn't seem to work my way out of it no matter how hard I busted my rear in the gym.
There was also something else going on with my body, because I was only having maybe one or two days out of the entire week where I felt okay. TWO days out of the week that were not "good." Not "fantabulous." Sometimes not even slightly okay. I was so tired all of the time and even on weekends. Even during holiday breaks and summer vacations. Where was this energy I was supposed to have with all of this healthy eating and exercise? The people on The Biggest Loser had it; why couldn't I? My moods were erratic. I fell into the blues easily. My ability to sleep at the drop of a hat was astounding. My memory was awful, and I had a constant on-edge feeling that buzzed my nerves. Something had to be done, but I had tried everything before--exercise, diet, exercising. Diet. My friggin' healthy diet: Whole grains, lean meats, vegetables, fruits. Carbs only in the first half of the day. Everything was spot on. Instead of free days of eating whatever I wanted, I switched to a free meal. A "free meal" was usually going out to Jose Pepper's and eating half a quesadilla and having some ice cream afterwards. I generally felt sick the day after, but it was a deeper sick than how I felt the rest of the week, because I always felt some sort of icky. I always imagined my stomach being the color of fire every time I ate something that was made out of anything other than a vegetable, fruit, or a side of beef. The rest of the week is what is referred to as "clean eating." I was squeaky. Or, at least it was what I thought was squeaky.
I spend my summers fixing things about myself, but I was tired of doing the same thing only harder and with more veggies. I had to work smarter. This year a slightly pudgy brain cell must have exploded, and I saw a bright light. The one thing I had never even thought about giving up was the "whole grains" portion of my diet. I mean, come on. That's the good part of a diet--the only little glimmer of hope that I had amidst all of this work was now my toy that I was about to lose under the refrigerator. I decided I would give up gluten and wheat, thinking that that was my problem with always feeling sick. I thought that if I didn't clear up my symptoms within a week, then I was free and clear and could go back to bread. Oh my gosh, and back to Subway.
I filled those missing-wheat calories with nuts, cheese, and seeds. I found recipes to try and found myself in the kitchen more and more with all of these kitchen thingies to use that I had never used before. I craved Cheez-Its.
Weight began to peel off of me. I began to crave strawberries, tomatoes, and parmesan all mixed together.
The first three days were the most difficult, especially since I started on a Saturday, my day for that blessed free meal. I skipped the free meal and had a ginormous salad with grilled chicken. Those first few days I also craved bread like a madwoman, but I was too stubborn to give in. All of this so far must've been worth it, because my stomach had not hurt in two days out of the three.
By the fourth day I felt energized. I could think a little more clearly, and it was the first day this summer that I hadn't felt the need to take a nap for half the afternoon or consider the need to seek Dr. Phil. Just because I am who I am, I gave myself quick vocabulary lessons to test the ol' noggin' up there. That seemed to be working better, too. I began to enjoy this weird sensation of feeling good, and The Husband said that my moods were evening out, which is always good for him and his way of life.
Each day after that first week became easier, and I didn't crave so many fluffy, gluten-filled things. I became full faster, and I didn't get as furiously hungry. I barely became hungry at all. My tastes learned to love vegetables. Did you know that spaghetti squash actually shreds and looks like spaghetti noodles? WHO KNEW? I think I've become somewhat of a foodie now, because I can make crackers out of nut flours, and I can make breads out of things like coconut, almond, and mesquite flours. The summer has been an awesome awakening and quite the learning experiment.
It took me three weeks to the day to stop craving Cheez-Its, though. It was also at the end of this three weeks that I discovered Wheat Belly, a New York Times' bestseller by Dr. William Davis. I don't even know what to say in just a few words about that book. I was horrified, but everything made sense. The people he referenced were people like me with the issues that I faced. They also conquered their ills by giving up wheat, and it also worked for them. It bolstered me to keep going. After reading Wheat Belly, I decided that I cannot put that junk back into my body. Thank goodness I didn't crave bread (or Cheez Its), anymore. I keep my cravings only in the school-supply aisle at WalMart. And bacon. I also could not in a good conscience feed this stuff to my household, either, and so I approached The Husband about being my guinea pig for at least seven days. He said, "Sure." He lost four pounds in the first two weeks, and he tells me that he does not feel deprived. He was also very patient about me using him as a taste tester the moment he came home, and he has been very supportive in having his colleagues at work try the crackers that I make. Our house is wheat free now (although, all of those boxes of wheat-filled stuff still lurks in the pantry. We are not even the remotest bit tempted), and The Husband has finished his third week of going without the wheat. I don't know how this will play out on pizza days at school for The Kiddo, but we'll deal with that when it comes. I cannot recommend the Wheat Belly book enough.
This was the year that I tried that very last thing that I hadn't really given a chance before. The only other time I had gone wheat free was during a fourteen-day detox and then I went right back on and my weight crept right back up. Giving up wheat for good had to be it, because I think I had literally tried everything else. I got the wheat out of Dodge.
No more "free days" of eating whatever I wanted; no more eating toast for my post-workout treat; no more buns with the hamburgers, or even having those croutons on my favorite salad at Jose Pepper's. The great thing is that I don't feel deprived, and I am enjoying feeling "normal" for once in my life, even though what I did with throwing out something that has been an American staple for a very long time is not even in the neighborhood of any sort of normal. This way of eating has given me what I've wanted for a very long time: a "normal" 23 on the BMI. I am in the normal range. I, Tracy, is normal. Normal am I. Am I normal? Why, yes. I am normal. The BMI isn't the end-all, however. My health, my vibrancy, and my energy were all at stake, and I believe I have earned those back after being without them for such a long time.
As for the body image part, that is not normal, and my head needs to wrap around the new me. I went shopping for clothes and the last time I wore a size six was when my mom still shopped for me, and I was ten years old and wore 6/6X. I now am the proud owner of a brand new pair of pants in a size that I didn't think normal people wore. They are two sizes different from when I started the summer, and so I am trying a new normal on and see how it feels for awhile. I'll have to let the brain be logical and let it sink in that the way I look is okay. The way I feel is even better. I feel healthy for the first time.
Energy. Focus. Memory. Happiness.
So, in the big scheme of things, as far as the way the average American eats, I am still abnormal. I'm okay with that, because I am now okay with myself even though giving up wheat was probably one of the hardest decisions I ever met. It goes against the grain, does it not? At the beginning of this journey, my brain was thinking in terms of what do I give up now? Now, I think what do I get to have now. I eat more food than I ever ate before, and my taste buds appreciate every one of them. I need less salt, because it seems I am able to taste more. I am abnormal, but it's the most normal I have ever been.