For the past seven years, I have been on a journey of sorts.
Half-way through my pregnancy with my first child, I took a standard glucose test to check for gestational diabetes. The test has two parts: the first is given to all pregnant women. If you pass it, you don’t have to take the second part. You’re diabetes-free. If you fail it, you might still be diabetes-free, but you have to take the second test to be sure. I sat dumbfounded in my doctor’s office when she explained to me that I’d failed the first test. I didn’t understand. I thought I ate healthy. I thought I was a healthy weight. I got upset. She set the appointment for the second test and I nervously came back a week later.
Here’s the thing: five months before I took that test, my grandpa passed away. He had diabetes. And, while his death wasn’t directly caused by the diabetes, it was absolutely driven by it. He developed lung cancer in his last year of life. The doctor could’ve taken care of it but my grandpa had to get his blood sugar under control and lose a little weight to qualify for the surgery that would’ve saved his life. He could never manage to get it under control, though. He never got the surgery. His condition worsened. He died slowly, and it was agony to watch. When I got the call that he’d passed, I cried not out of grief (those tears happened weeks before) but out of relief. He was finally free of pain.
I passed the second test. Diabetes-free. But it was a wake-up call. I’ll never forget my doctor sitting next to me after that second test, telling me that while I was in the clear for that pregnancy, I should still view failing the first test as a red flag. She said women who fail that first test are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in the life.
I was terrified of dying like my grandpa died. So I vowed to do what I needed to do to be healthy. To help my husband be healthy. To bring our first child into a family of health and vitality so that she’d be healthy, too.
It started with honestly examining how I was doing. I wasn’t the healthy weight I thought I was. At the start of my pregnancy, I weighed 155 lbs. That put my BMI at 25.8. Anything over 25.0 is considered overweight. So I was overweight. Over the course of my pregnancy, I ended up gaining fifty pounds. I left the hospital at 196 lbs.
I realized that I was eating out way too much. I craved fast food constantly, and nothing excited me more than the thought of going to a restaurant for dinner. I ate way more than I needed at those meals because it tasted so dang good. You know what I’m talking about. Just think about a juicy steak and a side of loaded mashed potatoes. Think about an Oreo blast from Sonic. Or a big plate of chili-cheese fries from Ward’s. It’s not possible to eat a reasonable amount of those foods. At least, it wasn’t for me.
I was on the road to obesity and diabetes. And, once I opened my eyes to see that reality, I abruptly stopped walking and turned around. I wouldn’t be obese. I wouldn’t develop diabetes. I would do everything in my power to get and stay healthy.
So I started cooking at home more and avoiding eating out. I dramatically, intentionally, increased the amount of veggies I cooked. I experimented with new things like kale, ground turkey, microgreens, and tofu. I started trying to like broccoli (it used to make me gag). I stopped mindlessly snacking. I started drinking copious amounts of water. I’d put my baby in the stroller and walk for an hour a day.
The weight came off. By her first birthday, I weighed 140 lbs. 15 lbs less than I was when I graduated college and got married.
My weight has fluctuated some in the years since but only because I’ve had two more babies. I currently weigh 130 lbs. I haven’t weighed this little since 9th grade. People want to know how. How did I lose the weight? How do I keep it off? I sense they’re hoping I’ll say it was x, y, or z. Some special supplement or program. Some new thing. They seem a little disappointed when I shrug, a little embarrassed, and tell them I just exercise and eat well.
That’s it. That’s the sum of it all.
There’s no secret to my exercise routine. I workout. Sometimes at the gym, sometimes at home. Sometimes I just walk.
There’s no great secret to my eating habits, either. I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Those meals are plastered on this blog. This is what I eat! Lots of fruits and veggies, lots of whole grains.
If I’ve had a particularly hard workout, I may eat a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or a larabar right after. Other than that, I usually don’t snack between meals. If I feel a little hungry, I’ll brew some hot tea (no sweetener, though). Once a week or so, after the kids are in bed, I’ll make a little sweet like this. Or, if we’re having pizza night (we love making homemade pizza!), I may bake a batch of cookies from scratch. We try to limit our sweets consumption, though.
The only things I drink are water (typically around a gallon a day), black coffee, and kombucha. I went through a short phase where I drank one diet coke a day, but I stopped once I realized it was making me feel super bloated, ravenously hungry, and left me with a craving for sweets and junky food.
These changes may seem extreme. You may think there’s no way you can do them. But you can! This is a journey. You don’t change overnight, and you have to start somewhere. Maybe for you, your first step can be cutting out soda or diet soda. I promise it’s possible! Maybe it’s committing to going for a walk after dinner each night.
I don’t know you or your life. I don’t know what this lifestyle will look like for you, but I do know that where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you’re tired of being overweight, of being a slave to your cravings, of dealing with diet-related health issues, there is a way out.
I took that way out. And I’m never going back.