What’s Healthier than Kale?

About a month ago, I saw a friend at a girls night that I hadn’t seen in a long time. When she came in I immediately noticed her weight-loss but more so was the smile she wore on her face. You could see that she felt good about herself, not in a prideful way but in the “I am finally happy with who I am” way. She shared with us a little about her journey and how she got to where she is today. I was so impressed, encouraged and excited for her that the next day, I messaged her and asked her to share her story and she agreed! I hope it encourages you as much as it did me!

What’s healthier than kale? A good relationship with food.

By: Ashley Smith

When asked to write a testimony about my weight loss journey my first thought was that my story isn’t really anything special or impressive.  But the longer I considered it, the more I realized that mine might be exactly the kind of story that someone else can relate to.

I’m one of those people who’s been overweight for most of my life. I’ve never really been a small person (and never expect to), but I can never really pinpoint a time when I went from being thin to being fat. It was kind of a gradual thing. Throughout my adolescent and adult life I’ve fluctuated between overweight to morbidly obese.  For the past 15 years or so I’ve tried a lot of different things to get control of my weight including Weight Watchers (a few times), a short stint on the Atkins Diet, and also the tried and true eat healthy and exercise diet.  I even managed to drop 55 lbs on Weight Watchers after reaching my highest recorded weight of 240 lbs and being faced with several unflattering photos of myself.  But then that weight started slowly creeping back on when my depression started creeping in.

I never really noticed myself comfort eating, but I can recognize now that I was.  A lot of happy memories in my life have revolved around spending time with family and ultimately, family meals. We are a tribe of food lovers.  Growing up, love was often shown with food.  Lots of memories were made in the kitchen with my grandmothers, mom, and aunts sharing their recipes and taking the time to teach me their ways. It’s something I’m incredibly thankful for. But deep into my depression I’d find myself in the kitchen baking cookies that I really didn’t need because it might give me a fleeting moment of feeling that place of love, comfort, and happiness.  But when my belly was (too) full of those cookies the good feelings started to dissipate and the sadness would creep back in.

After about 5 years my anxiety and depression reached a boiling point and became so overwhelming that I could no longer ignore it.  So I sought professional help.  My psychiatrist is a big proponent of emphasizing the connection between physical and mental health.  Once I began feeling better about myself from a mental standpoint I became more open to working on my physical health.  Toward the end of April my psychiatrist asked me point blank what was stopping me from getting healthy and I no longer had an excuse.  So he challenged me to start the next day and I’ve been going ever since.

From the start I decided I wasn’t really going to do any particular diet.  I just wanted to be more aware of what and how much I was putting into my body.  So I downloaded the myfitnesspal app on my phone and I track everything I eat on there throughout the day.  I gave myself a 1400 calorie limit, but I wasn’t going to scold myself if I went over it.  It soon became obvious that I had been eating way too much.  I conveniently/inconveniently got a stomach bug on day one, which made me unable to eat for the first couple days and resulted in a 5 lb weight loss.  I would not recommend this method, but in hindsight I’m a little thankful I had that jump-start. So once I began eating again I tried eating healthily.  Not 100% clean by any means, but a far cry from where I was. I would love to eat clean, but it’s really not in my budget at this time and it doesn’t really jive with my love of gluten.  Maybe one day I’ll get there, but I’m not there yet and that’s okay.  I’ve come to understand that moderation is key for me.  If I want a piece of cake or a slice of pizza I’m going to have it as long as it fits within or close to my calories for the day.  I’m going to eat one piece of candy instead of half a bag.  And if I go to a party I’m going to have a bit of everything and not feel guilty about it.  For the most part I try to eat healthy, hearty meals that will nourish my body.  It’s been a learning process for me just understanding how different foods affect my body, which is something I never really took the time to figure out before.  I’m not going to say that the way I’m doing things will work for everyone, but I will say it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever tried.  I feel like for once I’m not focused on what that final number on the scale will be.  I’m more focused on creating a healthy future for myself.  There are definitely things I’d like to try when it comes to fitness and diet, but I feel like I’ve finally found that method that I know I can maintain for the rest of my life.  I don’t feel hungry all the time or deprived of anything.  The longer I do this the easier it gets and I feel more motivated to continue.  If there’s one thing I could tell someone who wanted to know what kind of simple changes they could make to lose weight it’s this: if you can’t eat 100% healthy then try to eat less.  I can totally understand the struggle of feeling like you need to completely overhaul your diet and stop eating things that you love.  That can be overwhelming, and for me it’s just not realistic.  Go at your own pace, power through the tough days, eat your favorite things occasionally, but don’t give up.  I can promise that it gets easier and the changes you experience will make you excited to keep going.

6 1/2 months in I’m down 45 lbs and feeling so much better than I’ve felt in a very long time.  And my doctor was right. The mental and physical health connection is real and my mental health has improved drastically.  I no longer catch myself needing to eat something because I’m feeling emotional. I’ve found the balance that I’ve been seeking for most of my life and I feel like I finally have a healthy relationship with food.

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