One thing you’ll know from reading my blog posts is that I try to be as honest as possible, and this post is no exception. In the last six months, I have lost 35 pounds. Now, when you think of that in terms of bags of flour or oranges or potatoes or a toddler, it really is a lot of weight. In this post, I’m going to share how I was actually able to lose weight, see visible results and not starve myself along the way. I’ll be providing insights on what I ate and didn’t eat and how I got here…
Why I Set Out On My Weight Loss Journey
I’ve tried going on diets before, I’ve bought gym memberships and workout equipment, I’ve played sports and signed up for classes….but I’ve never been able to really stick with one thing. I found myself feeling sluggish, unfocussed and feeling generally bleh. I’m also photographed constantly for my blog and Instagram and I’m not going to lie – I didn’t love what I saw. I didn’t feel comfortable in my clothes, doing photoshoots or posting much to Instagram. I needed to change something.
I’m going to skip ahead and start with the results. This might motivate you to read on!
I lost 35 pounds on the scale. What the scale won’t tell you is this: I dropped several clothing sizes. I went from a 30″ waist to a 26″ waist. I went from a size Large to a size Small and sometimes X-Small. I went from a size 12 to a size 6 (and even smaller in some brands).
I feel more clearheaded, focussed and energetic. I sleep better at night. My skin is generally clear of acne (with the exception of hormonal breakouts). I look and feel younger.
My husband’s eczema has completely disappeared. He feels more energetic and agile playing hockey. He doesn’t get sore after games. His wedding suit is too big for him.
We’ve had to do massive closet clean-outs and full wardrobe try-ons. It’s honestly been great to purge so many items and really sit back and wonder “do I need to replace all of this or can I get by with less?” That has been a huge mental weight lifted off of us, too. The quickest way to more closet space is to have less stuff.
The most important result: I love the way I feel in my skin. I don’t feel like I need to hide parts of my body in photos or like I have to strategically plan what I wear so I don’t look frumpy. I actually enjoy shopping for clothes again and I’m much more confident in my career and myself in general. I don’t feel guilty about what I eat and I feel better about the nutritional choices that I make.
How We Chose to Execute a Healthier Lifestyle
My husband and I decided that choosing foods that made us feel nourished and energized was a good place to start. We’d tried the ketogenic (keto) diet before but found it to be a bit restrictive. My parents had found success with the Dr. Gundry Plant Paradox diet, but we found that to be a bit restrictive, too. There was the option of controlling portion sizes, but that felt like starving ourselves, so we decided to set out on our own path.
Keep in mind here that I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist. I’m just someone who set out to create a healthier lifestyle for herself. Please consult an expert if you are unsure of anything. All of our bodies are different and react differently to things.
Our “Diet”: What We Eat & What We Avoid
This is a basic list of things that we choose not to eat on a regular basis. It doesn’t mean that when Taber corn season comes around that we won’t indulge ourselves or that we won’t occasionally have pizza or something else (as I’m sure you’ve seen on Instagram stories!), but this is the list that we generally stick to.
What We Avoid:
- Anything with Grain Flours (no wheat, rye, spelt or other grains)
- Corn (with the occasional exception of hard taco shells)
- Rice + Tapioca
- Sugars & Artificial Sweeteners
- Processed Foods
- Starches (no potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.)
- Milk (we don’t avoid all dairy, but we do avoid milk as it contains a lot of sugar)
- Fruits & Veggies with a high glycemic index (no peppers, bananas, things like that)
- Fruit Juices, Pop, Sugar-Added Beverages
- Beer (with some exceptions), Liqueurs, and sugar added wines
I don’t want this list to seem restrictive to you. Sure, you can’t order pizza every night, but there are also some great ways to make healthier versions of your favourites.
What We Eat & Drink:
This list is not entirely comprehensive, but it should give you the gist.
It’s also worth noting that we drink plenty of water. We also invested in a Soda Stream machine and drink plenty of mineral water, too. Perrier, LaCroix and Bubly are also great naturally flavoured, sugar-free drinks.
- Meats & Proteins & Eggs
- Fats like Avocados, Olive Oil, MCT Oil, Coconut Oil
- Butter (never margarine or anything artificial)
- Dairy: Cheeses, Cream Cheese, Heavy Cream
- Milk: Fairlife brand is a great alternative (very low sugar)
- Veggies: Greens, Cabbage, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Onions, Zucchini, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Celery, Carrots (in moderation), Jicama…the list goes on.
- Lots of fresh herbs
- Fruit: Berries, Melons, Lemons and Limes
- Nuts: In moderate quantities (as they are high in calories)
- Nut Flours & Coconut Flours
- Dark Chocolate (Lily’s is a great choice!); Cocoa
- Natural Sweeteners (Monk Fruit or Swerve)
- Alcohol: Low-Carb Beer (Michelob Ultra, Molson67, Bud Light); Dry Wines (think: Pinot Noir, Merlot), Prosecco and Champagne, Light White Wines, Grain Spirits (Scotch/Whiskey), Vodka, Gin, Tequila.
- Note: We keep alcohol intake to a lower amount as drinking your calories can really add up.
Cooking For Yourself & Making Good Choices
Meal planning can definitely make this easier, and you’ll feel less deprived of the things that you love if you find a way to make them yourself in a healthier manner. I’ve found that a simple substitution for making the things that you want to eat is to just make them yourself. If you add the word “keto” to any item you’re searching for, a recipe is bound to come up. Pinterest is also your friend here.
At first I found we were trying to find substitutes for everything (I’ve listed some below). I have been able to take some of my favourite recipes and sub in almond flour, swerve and a few additional ingredients to make them “healthier” but in truth, it was often easier to seek out new recipes.
Coming up with ‘healthy’ meal ideas can be daunting and we don’t want a chicken breast and some salad for every meal we eat! Here are my favourite cookbooks – they’re full of recipes for things like homemade tortilla shells, waffles, biscuits and rolls, cookies and cupcakes and so much more:
- Eggs, Meat and Avocados. I like eggs fried in butter, scrambled eggs with bacon and cheese, poached eggs, boiled eggs…you get the picture. Add some bacon, sausage or ham and half an avocado and you’re set!
- Protein shake of some kind. My favourite protein shake recipes come from the cookbooks above or Body Love by Kelly Leveque:
Lunch & Dinner:
- Meat and Veggies.
- Meat: Grilled, Smoked, Roasted, Bacon-Wrapped…whatever you like.
- We use our BBQ and our Bradley Smoker a TON and it has been great for this!
- Veggies: Grilled, Roasted, Raw, in a Salad…just be sure they aren’t starchy ones.
- Fathead Pizza (this is a great keto-friendly pizza)
- Salads with great ingredients! There are some great ones in Food Swings by Jessica Seinfeld:
- Whisps or homemade crackers (+ hummus!)
- Pork rinds (great with those homemade Epicure dips!)
- Charcuterie boards (try to avoid processed meats here if you can), add dill pickles!
- Roasted Almonds (not too many as they are calorie heavy)
- Veggies + dip (great with Epicure dips + hummus)
- Love GoodFats bars
- Qwest Bars
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries (sometimes with homemade whipping cream with sugar substitute)
- Fruit: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew
- I make homemade desserts with substitutes (see below). My faves include Peanut Butter Pie, Nutella Pie, my famous brownie recipe and carrot cake.
- Lily’s Chocolate Bars or Lindt 90% Dark Chocolate
- Atkins snack/treat bars – they’ve got everything from chocolate bars to peanut butter cups and more!
Something to note around snacks: If you are finding yourself feeling hungry between meals, consider adding more fat to your diet. This should help fuel your body for longer periods of time.
How To Cook: Tips For Substitutions
Flour: Try Almond or Coconut Flours.
Baked Goods: Try making your own!
Chocolate Chips: Try Lily’s Baking Chips or Chipits Dark Chocolate Chunks
Pizza: Try Fathead Pizza. You’re welcome.
Bread: Try CarbQuick for making homemade biscuits, or even try making your own with psyllium husks and almond flour.
Potatoes: Try Jicama or Cauliflower.
Salad Dressings & Condiments: Make your own. All of the books I’ve shared have recipes in them. I’ll be sure to share some more in another post soon!
But what about takeout?! Or Eating at Restaurants?!
With services like PostMates, UberEats, SkipTheDishes and DoorDash, you’re no longer limited to pizza and Chinese food for delivery. Your favourite pub likely offers some super tasty salads or healthy meal options that you can have delivered! Love tacos and fajitas? Ditch the shells and eat the fixin’s like a salad. Love burgers? Try your burger lettuce wrapped/bunless (Five Guys does this very well).
I’m a fairly picky eater, so altering a menu has never been a source of shame for me (appologies to those of you who’ve served…but also sorry not sorry). You can always opt out of a side potato and ask for more veggies or a side salad. If you stick to menu items that include meat and veggies, you’ll be fine. Just read the ingredients and make good choices.
Every once in awhile we’ll have a “treat” of some kind. Maybe once a month we’ll have fries or we’ll order pizza. What we don’t do though, is have an entire day where we eat things that are terrible for us. For one, we feel like garbage afterwards, and for another, it’s about your mentality. Some believe that “well, I’m already out of ketosis so I may as well eat whatever the hell I want” and to that I say “dial it back about 80%”. Just because you eat a slice of pie doesn’t mean you need to eat the entire thing!!! Moderation is key.
One question that I get a lot (that bothers me) is “don’t you feel tempted?” to which I respond, “tempted by what?”. Am I tempted at the thought of feeling hungover because I ate all of that processed or refined food? Temptation refers to willpower and changing your lifestyle isn’t about willpower so much as it is about just making a decision about how you plan on treating your body.
Thoughts On Portion Sizes
& Counting Calories and Carbs
We don’t count calories, we don’t count carbs (unless we’re reading the label for something to see how much sugar is in it) and we don’t measure portion sizes. We weren’t constantly ensuring our bodies were in ketosis. I’m sure we would have lost more weight more quickly if we’d done that, but to be honest, it just felt like a lot of work and like something that we would resent. We set out to cook and eat nourishing, yummy food and ate until we were full.
We found that throughout this process our appetites have changed. We can no longer eat the portions that we once consumed, but that is also because of the more nourishing ingredients in what we’re eating. We’ve also really enjoyed making and eating the meals that we’ve prepared for ourselves.
Sure you can count carbs, macros, calories, etc. but that just wasn’t something we were willing to do. This was a bit of an experiment for us and we wanted it to feel like a lifestyle change, not like a rigid diet that we’d end up hating.
Setting Small Goals
To be honest, we didn’t set specific goals this time around. We’ve all done those “If I can just lose ten pounds then I’ll be happy” goals and they just don’t seem to work. We decided we would try this for 3 months and see how we did and then re-evaluate. Sure we wanted to lose weight, but we honestly just wanted to start feeling better in our clothes – it wasn’t as much about the scale.
Don’t Call It a Diet
Diets are passing things, they are fads and they generally work for awhile, until you give up and gain all the weight back (and then some). This was a lifestyle change and I have bolded those words for a reason. We’ve just changed the way that we eat in general and we feel a whole lot better. We look to food to nourish us and give us fuel, not as something we can or cannot have.
Something I absolutely HATE is when people say things like “oh, right, you can’t have that on your diet” which is something you would never say to a celiac or diabetic person. Don’t put your shame of eating garbage food on me!
Change Your Relationship With Food
This was a hard one for us. Have you ever heard yourself saying something like “I’ve been so good lately, I deserve this” or “I’ve had a hard day, I need comfort food”? Have you ever used food as a reward or as a source of comfort? My husband’s family is European and they show their love for one another through food…and it’s rude to eat small portions of what is prepared for you.
We made a conscious decision that food was something we would consider as fuel and nourishment for our bodies as well as something that we wanted to enjoy. We enjoy cooking and eating very much!
There is also no guilt associated with food for us anymore. It’s not like “I ate some chocolate, that was so bad, omg my clothes aren’t going to fit” or some other shame spiral that making bad food choices can cause us. If we eat fries at dinner one day, good for us. Move on.
We tried to stick to a 8hours-16hours intermittent fasting schedule where we’d eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours. This started to feel a bit restrictive and what do you do if you’re really hungry in the morning? You listen to your body and you eat something. What really made the difference for us was cutting back on late night snacking. We don’t eat or drink anything (except water/sparkling water) after 8pm. We found that we wake up feeling more energetic and less sluggish. Now when we eat too late we either wake up starving or feeling hungover.
We all know that adding physical activity to a healthy diet helps to speed up weight loss. In the last six months I haven’t added any additional activity (really) to my routine. I take my dog for a walk a few times per week, sometimes we go to the dog park. I go hiking once or twice per month in the warmer months and skiing or snowshoeing once per month in the colder months. My husband does all of these things with me plus he plays hockey 2-3 times per week.
I don’t seek to work out, although I am always moving and seemingly physically active. I do some yoga-style stretches every night before I go to bed, but that’s because I know it will keep me from aggravating an old back injury (I feel old just saying those words).
I recently acquired a Bowflex MaxTrainer which I intend to use for its prescribed 14 minutes per day to see if I can tone up a little.
In summary it’s all about listening to your body, eating food that nourishes you properly and avoiding refined foods like sugars and flours. You’ll feel better, you’ll look better and I bet you’ll live longer, too. Any questions about anything you’ve read here – send me an email or DM! I’d love to hear from you!