I grew up in a fantastic family in the Midwest. I grew up loving good, natural, whole foods. I have many memories of sitting in the vegetable garden at my childhood home snacking on green beans and tomatoes right off the stalk. My parents were way ahead of their time and perfected the farm-to-table movement when I was little. To this day, family gatherings include enough freshly picked produce and local products to make a farmer’s market jealous. But this good food foundation wasn’t enough to stop a dramatic weight gain during college.
The Freshman 50
Being involved in pretty much every extracurricular imaginable in high school, combined with my excellent food example at home, I never worried about my weight during my childhood or teenage years. I was happy and healthy and truthfully, I couldn’t even tell you what my weight was. I know I was bigger than the other girls in high school, but I also know I felt confident and comfortable in my body.
College changed everything.
The sports stopped and the late-night food courts started. The 4am delivery pizza and binge drinking didn’t help either. Through my four (and a half) years at undergrad, I eventually gained around 50 pounds. Post-graduation, I landed in a crappy job in a city I didn’t like with horrible salary and fast-food was the quickest and cheapest way for me to drown out my depression. I eventually topped the scales around 75 pounds heavier than someone of my height and build “should be”.
The Philosophy Shift
The one light spot during my post-graduation funk was meeting my husband. We met online (on Livejournal) and continued in a long-distance, international relationship for a year before he emigrated from Canada to the U.S. and we were married on St. Patrick’s Day in 2007. A happy marriage, a job change and a new city made getting healthier a top priority. Soon after our wedding, I had a terrifying doctor’s appointment where I was told, at 25 years old, I had the blood pressure and cholesterol of a 50 year old man. The light went on. Suddenly I had a husband that loved me, a job I enjoyed and lived in a city I adored. The only thing left was to get my health under control.
I started calorie counting and walking and the weight came off slowly, but the true shift in my world came when I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. My eyes were opened to a whole new world when it came to food. I was literally in tears while reading it because everything that I thought was “healthy” was poisoning me and making me overweight.
The Food Story
The process to switch our diet was slow. It took about a year for us to completely overhaul our food and to evolve to a completely clean diet. It definitely wasn’t a “rip the bandaid off” kind of action. During this time, I stopped counting calories and really focused on informing myself about food production and food chemistry. I maintained my current weight, but my outlook completely shifted. I started fueling my body with the correct foods and felt better. I slept better, I worked harder and I was generally happier.
Once I felt like I had a grasp on a clean food lifestyle, my focus shifted back to shedding weight. I started weighing, measuring and counting calories again. I also overhauled my fitness routine. I joined a gym, started running and tried out numerous exercise classes. I don’t think I’ll ever LOVE working out, but I do love how it makes me feel.
By counting calories, eating clean and moving more, I’ve dropped about 40 pounds and gained energy, confidence and strength. I’m still in weight loss mode (although not nearly as aggressively) and would eventually like to lose between 25-40 more pounds to be the best Cass I can be.
A massive part of my success has been my support system. I am incredibly fortunate to have a husband who is on board with all my crazy food decisions and recipes. I am also blessed with an extended family that truly knows the meaning of “real food” and get as excited by it as I do. The food at family gatherings with my parents and siblings would rival even the best locavore restaurant!
I also gained an amazing support system from my friends at SparkPeople. If you are struggling to find support in your health journey, join the teams, write blogs and make friends at SparkPeople. Everyone there is going through the same issues and are there to help and support you. It is an incredible community. Oh, and it is FREE. My username there is MIGHTYFINEWINE. Please add me and let’s be friends! I’m active over there almost everyday. You can also keep an eye on my food and fitness trackers on MyFitnessPal. I love their iPhone app for food tracking!