First off I have to let you know that I had no desire to lose 30 pounds. Yes, I had some old dresses in the back of my closet that I dreamed of wearing again one day, but I was quite sure I only needed to shed about 10 pounds to squeeze back into them. Talk about delusional! But I digress.
Last November I started a 3 month journey on a candida diet using this book. If you know what candida is, congratulations! You are officially a health nut! I grew up eating whole wheat cookies, tofu, and carob, so…yeah. I am well acquainted with the term candida. But for those of you that do not know, candida is a fancy word for yeast. Yeast is kind of like bacteria in that we all need some in our bodies, but an overgrowth spells trouble. To fix an overgrowth, you need to starve the candida, which means eliminating certain foods that contain sugar, gluten, dairy, caffeine or anything that produces happiness and joy. I kid. Not really.
So I did this. For 3 months. Religiously.
Let me just tell you that I have tried EVERYTHING to lose the “baby weight,” and been somewhat successful. Over the course of the last 13 years I have gained and subsequently lost over 150 pounds total! However, my youngest baby is almost six, and the numbers on the scale were only going up, so there’s that.
My attempts as of late consisted of crash dieting when big events were approaching and packing the pounds right back on when said event had passed. But this time it was different. This time, I had an impetus even greater than fitting into that perfect dress.
If your paying attention, you may have noticed that I started this diet only weeks before Thanksgiving. Yes, I actually lost weight during the holidays while following this diet. While everyone else was indulging on seasonal sweets and decadent delights, I was abstaining like a diet ninja. How, you may ask, did I conjure up such paramount powers of self control? Well, it was easy actually. The alternative was torture.
You see in September I developed this slightly annoying rash in my underarms. Apparently this is more common then I would have thought, because I have talked to many of you that nodded your heads in understanding. Over the course of several months the irritation went from annoying to unbearable. I tried several doctors that all treated the symptom, giving me steroids that led to vertigo, and then antihistamines that left me virtually unconscious. Realizing that a trip to an allergist would likely cost our summer vacation fund, I was determined to try a natural remedy. It was then the Lord reminded me of a friend that put her husband on the “Candida Diet.” Graciously she lent me her book, The Candida Cure. However after thumbing through the pages, I felt very discouraged. There was no way I could do this. I lived on caffeine. How could I function and take care of my ever growing laundry list of responsibilities without my dear friend, Chai tea?
The next morning I woke up and simply decided to skip my daily dose of black tea. One choice at a time, I ended up following the diet to the “T,” (pun intended,) and after about 2 weeks I saw a huge improvement.
I made myself plain sweet potatoes and green beans for Thanksgiving and found it easy to say no to dessert. I felt stronger than ever and realized it actually felt good, almost empowering to take back control over my food choices.
However a few weeks later I had one slip up. Events were the hardest. Eating plain salad at a memorial service catered by a delicious Italian restaurant is hard to explain. Discussing my armpits is not a comfortable conversation starter. So I caved. I ate a dish that I knew had sugar in it, and all the way home I looked like an orangutan scratching my armpits till they were raw. From that moment on there was no messing around. I had gotten to “that” point. The truth is that change only happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain (literally in my case) of change.
I would like to say that it got easier as time when on, and to a certain extent it did, but there were many days when my texts to my dearest friends would reveal otherwise. While the practical side of preparing foods did get a bit easier, it was often exhausting and even depressing to avoid the foods that I had always associated with happiness!! However as time went on, and I began to easily fit into clothes that had been busting at the seems, my resolve did strengthen.
Here are a few things I learned:
Caffeine makes you tired.
I had more energy without caffeine than I had with it. Caffeine brings your body to an unnatural high and then crashes you mercilessly to the floor also increasing moodiness.
Sugar affects your mood more than you realize.
Since finishing the diet, I have indulged in sweets more than once. And now I notice it more than ever. Sugar not only depletes my energy level, but also affects my mood. In fact, midway through this 3 month experiment my husband uttered these terribly brave words that shocked me. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” he began. “but, you’re a lot less moody these days.” And friends, it is so true!! We have no idea how easily we are affected by our food. Yes, in the beginning I felt depressed and exhausted by the need to say no to everything I had indulged on before, but once my body and mind got over the initial detox, I felt stronger, happier, and less crazy than I had in over a decade! Knowing my mood will be affected by sugar has actually given me strength to say no more than i used to (which was never! ha!)
Carbs are no joke.
Between the infamous carb coma to the extra belly weight, carbs leave a lasting impact. Growing up with a Sicilian mother, pasta was a major food group. So I denied this reality for so long. However, since I have now felt the positive benefits of reducing carbs, I’m a believer.
Real food tastes better.
I actually like the taste of grilled meat. You can actually taste the meat when it is not slathered in ketchup (sugar) and encased in bread,!
Making healthy and delicious substitutions is key.
I didn’t put my family on the diet in order to keep some semblance of sanity. But when I would make them burgers, I would saute some onions for me, and while they ate a typical burger, I would enjoy mine sans bread and condiments, but covered in caramelized onions that I legitimately now prefer. And now some of them have joined me. Last Monday, half of us had no bread and covered our burgers in homemade salsa instead!
Food isn’t supposed to be that convenient and cheap.
When you have to spend time or money making your food, you tend to eat less. Bottom line. A cheap bag of chips is easily demolished, but if it takes you 20 minutes to make some kale chips, you are less likely to eat them all in one setting.
Three months was the perfect time frame to change my habits.
Contrary to popular belief, 21 days is not nearly enough to change a truly established habit.See here.It’s actually closer to three times that.
Weight loss is 80% diet.
Since I regularly over share on Facebook, including posts about running, everyone I bump into since losing the weight says the same thing. “Wow, that running is really working!”
But the irony is that I have been running LESS then ever before. And this relates back to number 2. Apparently the sugar combined with the caffeine in my life was making me really anxious. And the endorphin rush I got from running was the one thing that seemed to ease my anxiety. I would literally run out of complete desperation, same time every day. By 3pm I felt like my head would explode it I didn’t go running. So I would throw my shoes on and run my cares away. But since changing my eating habits, I finally realized that I don’t have that same daily need to go running! It was an amazing and sobering discovery. All these years I lived with anxiety and didn’t have to! And now when I have that feeling again, I quickly identify the culprit, and reduce those problematic foods.
In the spirit of full disclosure, during the last few weeks, I have slipped back into some old patterns which simply underlines the importance of accountability. Although I started this alone, midway through a friend joined me. We would text each other food ideas when we were feeling successful, and sobbing emojis when we were over it! It is also imperative to process and share what we learn. The small act of writing this blog has reminded me of all that I learned during those three months and inspired me to get back to some healthier choices. It is so easy to forget isn’t it? In the Bible we are commanded to remember or “Do not forget” hundreds of times. We forget so easily!
Maybe you feel like you could never change. I feel like that a hundred times a day. The world would tell you that you actually don’t have to change.
Change isn’t possible, they say, but I serve a God that changed water into wine!
You deserve it, they say, but we are called to crucify our flesh, daily.
Obedience to Christ is always the hardest option. But it is the only option that will truly satisfy. None of us are walking this path perfectly. We all need grace. Surround yourself with people that will encourage you in your pursuit of Christ’s calling on your life and pray for you when you fail.
I cannot take credit for the power to make this huge change in my life, it only came from Christ. And in my case, that power came in the form of a trial, a weakness, an irritation that left me no choice but to obey. I pray that you would take that hard step of obedience whether it relates to choices in diet, lifestyle, or relationships. But even if you don’t have the strength to change, because of His love for us, God will often allow trials into our lives that will bring us to the end of ourselves, forcing us to run to him, and finally experience the joy He had waiting for us all along! Run to Him today. Confess your failings, pick up your cross, and follow Him!