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Obese & Healthy

Last Friday was my yearly physical and today I got the blood test results.

According to every BMI chart out there, my 5’9″ 231 pound solid self falls on the obese side of the algorithm.

According to my primary doctor’s observational evaluation and “superb” blood test results with “good, if not better, numbers than my previous results,”  I am metabolically healthy.

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I am more than a number.  I am an ongoing work in progress. I’m not saying weight doesn’t have anything to do with your health, it clearly does.  But, it is not everything.

I stand by the belief that not every thin person is healthy, and not every obese person is unhealthy.  There are many factors that play into health, but numbers on a scale and coordinating charts do not define your lifestyle.  You define your lifestyle and the blood tests confirm it.  What you put into your body and how often you move your body is ultimately what makes you “healthy” or “unhealthy” as far as diet.  It’s a pretty simple formula.

There is a little debate about the term “metabolically healthy obese” but more and more people are starting to understand that it’s not all about weight.  “It’s much easier to get a fat person fit than it is to get a fat person thin,” states Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., an exercise and wellness professor at Arizona State University.   My experience focusing on weight alone has led to a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and depression, fueling my hatred for TV Shows like The Biggest Loser.  Since changing my mindset to focus on strength and fitness, I’ve never felt better in this “obese” body and I’ve tried to make it easier for others to accept their own natural healthy size.

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I dreaded these annual physicals in previous years due to my elevated weight, poor eating habits, and fear of needles.  2 years ago and 48 pounds heavier, I knew it was time to change & take control of my health no matter how difficult.  I wanted to feel better in my skin while improving my overall quality of life.  My primary doctor’s tactful bedside manner and compassion for my weight struggles had a large part of helping me get started in making the right food and exercise choices.    Being lambasted by primarily older doctors in the past about my weight would send me spiraling deeper into a depression and avoiding check ups on the regular in fear of “failing”.  With my current physician it’s a team effort and I never feel judged.  That’s the way it should be.

This is why I cannot express enough how finding a support system that you trust, and who builds you up instead of tearing you down, is very important in reaching your health goals.   I tried to do it on my own in the past, but I knew that I needed guidance from someone who I could be completely honest with this time around.  Not only did I find a wonderful Primary doctor, but I found an excellent therapist who I saw regularly over these past years.  I now only call her if I need her and I have not seen her in over 2 months.  It’s nice to know professional resources are there when I need a little extra support, ongoing or temporary, and that they will help guide me back into a positive and encouraging mindset.

I understand not everyone has access to these resources but sometimes we all just need to find that one person in your life (a partner, sibling, parent, child, co-worker, friend, blogger, etc.) who will be there to urge and support you as you transition your existence into something meaningful and long-lasting.  I want to let you all know that it’s OK to ask for help and you are not alone in your struggles to find that healthy balance in your life.

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The Importance of Support

I make the healthiest food choices every day.

Wouldn’t that be nice if that statement was 100% accurate!?

I am guilty of having a “fake it until you make it” approach to life.  I am constantly at battle with myself over food and image and I try my best not to show it.  Since I started working with Smart Ones®  by appearing in the “Clean Slate” video filmed last November, I’ve felt empowered.  Learning that I was not alone in my food struggles and that there are a number of women who share similar stories was comforting.  I was honored to be a part of the Smart Ones® video and I proudly support the “Clean Slate” project. The project’s simple yet powerful message helps women lead a realistic healthy lifestyle.   I truly feel that Smart Ones®  cares about our wants & needs as women.

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Behind the Scenes of the Clean Slate Project video

Recently my struggles with food have been less thanks to the support of the “Clean Slate” community.  Connecting with other women about their healthy set backs has been reassuring and has kept me from going back to square one.  This non-judgmental community gets it.  I will never underestimate the power of support and how it’s OK to ask for help and share your struggles with those who get it.

The “Clean Slate” mentality is one I’ve talked about for years but found it difficult to actually practice until I discovered the Smart Ones® project.  Accept your dietary set backs as temporary, be kind to yourself, and focus on the big picture.  You are human.  You will make mistakes as we all have our moments of weakness.  Wipe the slate clean and move on.  You have a long, happy and healthy life ahead of you!

 

 

Fighting the Bloat

I have been trying to watch my sodium intake lately since I’ve been feeling a bit puffy. It can be difficult to keep your sodium consumption down if you lead a busy life where eating packaged foods keeps you from passing out because you aren’t able to find the time to make three fresh meals a day from scratch. As much as I try, I don’t always keep fresh fruits and veggies constantly stocked in the fridge.  Planning & making meals ahead of time is great in theory, but my plate is full in other areas!

I have made little changes in my habits to fight the bloat and noticed positive results over the past month. I drink lots of water to offset any higher sodium content in my diet and stopped drinking soda! I love my daily diet sodas for a caffeine kick since I don’t drink coffee. After a week or so of kicking the habit, I already felt less bloated and shed a few pounds in the process.   Even just cutting back your soda intake instead of quitting cold turkey can lead to feeling a little better in your skin.

One thing I love about Smart Ones® meals is their reasonable sodium content. Their website even has a list of products under 500mg of sodium.  How handy is that?!

For the busy vegetarian bee on the go, try planning three meals with Smart Ones® under 500mg products to stay well within a healthy day’s dose of sodium. Start your morning with the mouth watering, sweet and hearty Apples & Cinnamon Oatmeal made with delicious steel cut oats. Spend your afternoon indulging in the filling and zesty Santa Fe Style Rice & Beans for a fiesta lunch. Then end your day with a light yet flavorful sauce over crisp veggies and cute bow tie pasta with Pasta Primavera for dinner.

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Your tastebuds and waistline will thank you if you add these lower sodium dishes to your menu.

Get Up and Go!

We all have our own unique ups and downs while paving our path to wellness.  It could be a setback because you are momentarily unwell or other time vortexes (work, family, travel) may derail you from your typical health regiment.

For the past 2 weeks I’ve been sick with an Upper Respiratory Infection and unable to get to the gym. After a week of rest and drinking enough water to cause a drought in my state, I finally got my appetite back but my energy was still missing. I realized I was overindulging in food with the awakening of my taste buds where EVERYTHING TASTED DELICIOUS and I had no energy to burn off the extra calories.  I’ve been tracking my calories regularly and finally after a few days of reassessing my meal choices I was able to stay within my daily weight loss goal of 1400 calories thanks to the decision of choosing Smart Ones® as one of my daily meal choices.

If you’re unable to balance life and your calories on a daily basis, it’s empowering to know that you can start fresh with a clean slate the next day, or next week, and not feel you have to go all the way back to square one.  Occasional slip ups are part of any health journey, whether it be overindulging in calories or physical set backs, and tomorrow you can choose to get up and go!  Move forward from the crappy day or weeks you’ve been having and start fresh! Just be sure you are not overdoing it with physical activity after being sick and try not to limit your calorie intake in the extreme in order to to make up for a recent overindulgence in food. My advice would be to try and choose the right foods next time.  Life is all about finding that healthy balance, and some days the scale may be tipped against you but there is always a way to even the scale over time.

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Out for a short brisk walk after being sick for 2 weeks!

 

Maintaining in Both Worlds

I’ve gotten into the habit of using my personal Facebook account as my voice instead of my blog, and that needs to get rectified.  I want to share my thoughts and ideas with the world not with a limited group of friends!

One of the things that has crossed my mind lately is how awesome I feel in my skin. I’ve had a lot of personal road blocks this year, but right now I am in such a good place I need to share it with you all.  I found my goal has slightly changed as far as my clothing size.  Naturally, I’d like to feel lighter, stronger, and ultimately reach a healthier weight goal, but I also realized that losing more weight may hinder the natural curves of my body.  In the past when I’ve gone down one pant size lower than my current size 16, my ass got lost.  I have such a larger bone structure that I literally have to lose my ass to fit into a size 14.  I can feel my sit bones protruding and it’s actually uncomfortable sitting on hard surfaces.  If anything, I should maintain my booty for seat comfort alone!  I’m hoping glute exercises will help me keep the meat on the bone as I continue on my journey, but it seems when I get to a certain point of losing weight my body pulls from the areas I quite rather appreciate, like my derriere.  Does it pull fat from the rolls in my belly or my double chin, not so much!  But, I digress, that is a subject for another post entitled “Embracing the Rolls!”.

So for now, I’ll keep up the regular exercise and well as drink a milkshakes every so often to make sure I keep my curves nice and full.

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My Milkshake bring no boys to the yard because I’m still single.

Another reason I’m enjoying this time to maintain my shape while sharpening up the curves a bit with some yoga/cardio/pilates 3-4x per week, is because I’m wearing the perfect clothing size for a woman who loves to shop.  I’m 5’9″ and wear a size 14/16 in plus.  I also wear a L/XL in non plus sizes (depending on the store).  This is an awesome size to be because I get to shop IN BOTH WORLDS.  I get to wear clothing especially made for larger curvier ladies at Plus Size stores, as well as the higher end sizes at non-plus sized stores.  It’s quiet magical to say the least. I truly do find some items that fit me  well at shops like NY&Co., H&M, Kohl’s and TJ Maxx since they carry up to XL as well as some plus sizes,  but I tend to shop at more plus size specific stores like Lane Bryant because the clothing really caters to my curves.  (Please see my Curvy Fashion Page for a list of Plus Size friendly  stores.)

I recently invested in the Scalloped Boudoir Lace Dress in size 14/16 from Kiyonna, a high end plus size designer, to wear to a wedding last November in Manhattan.  Kiyonna’s designs are not cheap but they are simply stunning as well as durable and well worth the cost.  She is actually one of the only plus size designers who starts at size 10 instead of 12, which reaches a wider range of women but ultimately leaves out sizes lower than a size 10.   I wore this dress to two Halloween parties as well as the intended Manhattan wedding and I’ve gotten wonderful and genuine compliments on how classy and well made it is for my shape.

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Manhattan Wedding November, 2013

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Halloween Party #2 in Philly Oct. 2013

Halloween Party #1 at Artworks Trenton, Oct. 2013

Halloween Party #1 at Artworks Trenton, Oct. 2013

Needless to say, I got my damn moneys worth out of that dress.  I’ve been asked where I purchased the dress as well as the designer, both in person an on Facebook, by numerous women.  Being one who is not ashamed of being a plus size lady, I simply tell the gals who are clearly not more than a size 8 that it’s from  Kiyonna, a plus size designer for sizes 10 and up.  I do feel bad if it’s not available in their size, then I think about the clothing items I find online and in stores that only go up to a Large and I know by the cut I will never be able to squeeze my T&A in that item.  C’est la vie!

So, let’s wrap up.  Where am I on my journey to Health and Wellness?  Well, I’m taking some time to maintain my weight and health where it is now.  I’m not going to obsess over losing weight, even though I’m only half way to my “set” weight goal.   I feel if I can maintain at the half way point and find it’s not the end of the world difficult, then when I do reach my goal I won’t sabotage myself like I have in the past.  My tattoo artist (he lost 100 pounds!) gave me some advice regarding my journey to health & happiness.  His advice was NOT to set a weight goal and just do your thing, be healthy, be active, until you feel you have reached your goal.   For some of us, that sounds awesome and for others it sounds like a train wreck.  You know you.  You know if you need structure, goals, a plan or if you can change your mindset for the better and ride it out until you find your  healthy weight.  I’ve gone the regimented plan before and it works only temporarily for me.  Once I hit that goal, I seem to self-sabotage in order to find that other “goal” I need to reach.  Maintaining is not fun for me.  There is no prize at the end, except perhaps living a longer healthy life and not feeling like crap.  But that’s apparently not enough for me! So we’ll see if having no goal in the back in my mind (for now) is either worse or better.  Commence Happy & Healthy Kate Experiment #53983404.

I’m still leading an active life, I’m not counting calories or cutting back on any certain food, but I’m just trying to be more aware of portion control and what my body is telling me.  Do I still overeat? Yup.  Especially with the holidays surrounding me.  But as weird as this sounds, I don’t overeat as much or as often as I used to and to me that’s a small victory.  I’ve also realized a setback won’t be as huge in my crazy mind as if i was trying to lose weight.  Maintaining is just as challenging as losing weight for someone who has struggled with the scale their entire life, so once I master the art of maintenance I think I’ll finally have the knowledge I’ve been lacking in the past throughout my yo-yo dieting to finally live life at a healthier weight, whatever that may be.

Focusing on strength instead of weight has also really helped my overall mindset regarding my health.  On some level it feels great to fit into a lower dress size, it shows your hard work is paying off, but for me I’m at the point where I am OK with the number printed on my clothes.  Why?  Because I feel healthy, I feel great in my clothes, and I look damn cute.

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TJ Maxx – Owl Sweater in XL

Skinny Fat?

One of my student workers was kind enough to tell me that she enjoys reading this blog because she is also trying to lead a healthier way of life.  She spoke about how she defines herself as “skinny fat”, a term I’ve heard a lot of lately.  I can understand the frustrations of not feeling healthy in your body, so we chatted briefly about the subject.

This skinny fat phenomenon is defined as an individual who has a slender build but is not toned and has a high amount of body fat for their smaller frame.  Or as my student worker describes it, “I look fine while fully clothed (with small arms, legs, and neck), but I have a muffin top and I won’t be showing my body off in a bathing suit anytime soon.”   I think of it as those “before” and “after” ads where they showcase a naturally slender or athletic male or female with some extra body fat, and then the perfect super fit results after using a certain product.

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I strongly dislike those infomercials with obviously staged before and after photos and find them quite misleading.  I believe these ads are similar to “skinny plus sized” models.  It must be quite easy to showcase a perfect “after” body when the out of shape “skinny fat” body has the socially acceptable attractive proportions and underlining potential for total fitness.  Though plus sized models may not be considered “skinny fat” because of their toned bodies, it is very similar in model land.   You never, or rarely, see a model above a size 12 or 14,  shorter than 5’10”, without a perfectly toned and blemish free body.  It’s similar to a six foot size zero model being featured in an ad instead of a popular size 8.  The way (most) advertisements display both men and women is one of the many ways media feeds our body image struggles.  I’m not saying make all models larger and more in line with average body type, but mix up the pot a bit!

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Just a couple of Debenham’s diverse models

If anyone is mixing up the pot these days, Debenhams is cooking up some socially inclusive soup!  I do feel that more and more companies are using diverse and realistic models for their ads and getting the recognition they deserve.  The Debenham Lookbook that includes beautiful models of all sizes, races, ages, and body types and the Sweden based H&M’s recent advertisement spread pleases me to no end.  Oddly enough, they are both International companies.  (Isn’t America the one who gets a bad wrap for being large and in charge??)  There is an ongoing fight for body acceptance at any shape or size, one I’ve been fighting for my whole life, and one day it would be nice to see the fight end and everybody just get along!

But I digress.  Back to the subject at hand.

The “skinny fat” phenomenon is important to be aware of for naturally slender individuals.  It’s crucial to keep an eye on body fat and your overall health at any body size.  There are plenty of unhealthy skinny people out there as well as healthy overweight individuals.   This is why am a firm believer in Body Fat % versus Body Mass Index.   I will always be defined as Overweight in the BMI category, even at my goal weight, but my current 32% Body Fat is actually in the high “average” range (on more detailed charts) but falls into “obese” on other charts (not taking height and age into account).  I just take this discrepancy as just another reminder that I am above average in every way.  : )

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Stuck Between 2 Sizes.

I can fit into a size 14!!!  But the question is, can I move?

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Barely.

Since I’ve been focusing on strengthening and not slimming down my body over this past month, I found myself stuck between a size 14 and 16.  Ultimately my dream goal is to fit comfortably into a size 14, but I’m also happy being a strong and healthy size 16.  I was a size 12 before after I lost 100 lbs. the first time, and I looked emaciated for my 5’9″ large frame (but I also took short cuts to lose the weight).  My body structure is not meant to be a size 12 or below, without losing my kickin’ curves, and I’ve learned to accept that.  But I am feeling very frustrated being stuck between 2 sizes; one is slightly too big and the other is oh so tight.

My weight has stayed steadily at the increased 240lbs. and I still struggle with the negative notion of the numbers not decreasing even though I have been obviously eating more with my increased appetite from more intense physical activity.  Fortunately I feel great, look great, and I can tell my body is getting stronger with more muscle definition.   My legs are still as strong as ever, prepared to kill anyone who dares mess with me!  I love working my legs and glutes since they are the strongest part of my body, even though I know I should focus on my weak areas (like my core and arms).  But I’ve been sucking it up and doing Yoga and Pilates at Urge Fitness and truly feeling a difference in my core strength.

How do I get myself comfortably into that size 14?  Well, it’s pretty simple, I need to make a change in my diet.  With my increased exercise activity, my hunger is more rampant.  I’ve been eating whatever I want (but still logging calories) and maintaining my weight, which is my end goal, not my mid-goal.  But It’s good to know that once I hit my end weight goal (40 pounds to go, eek!), I have learned how to maintain.  I never knew how to properly maintain once my weight goal was reached, I always went back to my poor habits.  That is what I can take away from this plateau, but now it’s time to kick myself into full on road to wellness mode.  I am still keeping track of calories and activity on MyFitnessPal and have really noticed my poor choice in high calorie foods.  I think once I change the way I think about how I eat, again, I will start to see the results I desire.  With an increased appetite, I must choose my foods wisely.  If I feel the need to eat more quantity wise, I need to choose low calorie foods and more fruits/veggies.  Hopefully then I will see a change on the scale.

Man what a pain!  This battle of the bulge is exhausting, ongoing, but it will be worth it to lead a long healthy life where I can bug my loved ones until the end of time.

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4/24/13 – 240 LBS size 14 jeans

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