When it comes to your health, trust your gut.
A little over five years ago, I worked extremely hard to lose the pounds I packed on during and after menopause.
You know how it is: You're in denial and then one day, you finally decide to step on the scale and what you see makes your eyes roll back in your head.
"Holy crap! How did I get so big?"
We know how it happened. We ate too much of the wrong foods and we exercised too little, if at all.
I'm 5'6" and, although that isn't particularly tall, at that height I was able to disguise my excess poundage fairly well. But I wasn't happy with myself. In fact, I was miserable. I wore oversized clothes and absolutely hated shopping for them. "Extra this, extra that." Extra BIg.
One day, I'd had enough and decided to make some drastic changes. I completely overhauled my diet by eliminating nearly all carbs and focusing on lean protein and veggies. That was a bit obsessive, I admit, but it worked for me.
And I started working out. I had a ton of fitness DVDs and I finally began using them. I also bought a set of hand weights which was a gamechanger for me in that I'd never done any kind of resistance training.
Gradually, I noticed muscle where flab had previously been. Definition in my arms and legs. I lost the turkey wattle that had appeared under my chin as well as my "bat wings."
I bit the bullet and joined a gym, something I thought I'd never do. Ultimately, I dropped nearly seventy pounds and the scale showed a number that amazed even me. At my lowest, I was 130 pounds.
Flash forward to now, and nearly a year of quarantine. I'm at least ten pounds heavier than I was and am struggling to get back to my goal weight. But it seems harder this time. I'm home all day and, because I'm a writer, much of my time is spent on my butt. Not good.
I do have exercise equipment: A treadmill, stationary bike, hand weights, kettlebells, and the like, not to mention a plethora of free workouts available online. But I don't want to make this about me. I want to share what I've learned over the past few months as I witnessed my body "softening."
Before it became a "thing," I've been an intermittent faster. By accident, actually. It began when I started adding collagen and protein powders to my morning coffee. And sometimes, MCT oil powder, which is derived from coconuts. This mix kept me sated for hours. So much so, that I didn't have a morsel to eat until one or two in the afternoon.
I thought this was great. As it turns out, not so much. For me, I believe this method has slowed down my metabolism, making it even harder to shed the weight I gained back.
It was so puzzling to me: I was eating very little but the numbers on the scale kept going up. Lesson learned: It's smart to eat a little something to keep the metabolism humming. I've found that apples and peanut butter make an ideal snack, either before or after working out.
"Diets," as they stand, suck. Keto. Whole 30. Paleo. Personally, I don't understand how eating as much bacon and butter as you want can lead to permanent, sustained weight loss and a healthy, fit body.
Here's all you need to know, folks: Avoid processed foods whenever possible. Read labels, religiously and stay away from anything that's high in fructose, corn syrup, or sugar in any form. Too much sodium, too, is a red flag.
Stick to fruits, veggies, healthy fats, like avocados, and lean proteins. There's no need to avoid carbs, just make sure that they're unrefined. Try to avoid anything "white," like rice, potatoes, and the like. One grain that I find especially satisfying is barley. It's delicious, and you can have it as a side dish, or as a breakfast porridge. I like it on the savory side, so I always mix in a little extra virgin olive oil and garlic powder. Barley has an al dente chew and is especially satiating. But, like with any grain, watch your portions.
Finally, try to work exercise into your day. Humans weren't meant to sit for hours on end. It's unhealthy and it does lead to weight gain. Thirty minutes of cardio five days a week, combined with strength training will elicit fantastic results for your body and your mind. Go for a walk, get a set of hand weights--getting and staying fit needn't break the bank.
This is the protocol I follow and so far, so good. Give it a try because when you have your health, you really do have everything.
Thanks so much for reading.
© Sherry McGuinn, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.