Check The Environment

The other day an Instagram friend posted this quote:

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander Den Heijer

I loved this because it resonated in me. But as swiftly as the thoughts came in, life swept them away.

I was going through my Facebook newsfeed a few days later and was quickly reminded of that post. It was from an article in the Paris Review from author CJ Hauser. The essay titled The Crane Wife was an incredible read about how a woman found herself on a crane research trip after breaking off an engagement. Here’s the passage that took me back to that earlier post:

Here is what I learned once I began studying whooping cranes: only a small part of studying them has anything to do with the birds. Instead we counted berries. Counted crabs. Measured water salinity. Stood in the mud. Measured the speed of the wind.

It turns out, if you want to save a species, you don’t spend your time staring at the bird you want to save. You look at the things it relies on to live instead. You ask if there is enough to eat and drink. You ask if there is a safe place to sleep. Is there enough here to survive?

Why did this hit me so hard? Spending the last five years ardently working on myself by dealing with my weight, my food addiction, and my (often crippling) anxiety I discovered a link I never knew I was missing! I’ve been so focused on myself that I haven’t paused – consciously – to consider my environment.

When a person has a weight issue it’s often because there’s an imbalance somewhere. Many will consider that imbalance to ONLY be calories in far exceed calories out. It would be nice if that were true. It’s just one part of a much more complex algorithm! There’s usually an underlying cause that leads to the pure calorie math.

For example, consider the environment in which a person lives. Has food insecurity ever been an issue? A person who was deprived food through poverty or even through a parent’s withholding can be a factor.

I personally know a woman whose mother was terrified she’d grow up to be fat. She was slightly overweight when we were kids and her mother was obsessed with how much she ate, what she could eat and where she could eat. Her mother constantly micromanaged her food. When I saw her ten years after we graduated from high school she had gained a lot of weight. I often wondered if leaving her parents house where she had no one to stop her or manage her food led to her weight gain. Turns out her mother was heavy as a child and was taunted throughout her school years. Her desire to save her daughter from the same treatment was the motivation behind her behavior.

Trauma is another item to consider. Comedian Russell Brand famously said this:

Cannabis isn’t a gateway drug. 
Alcohol isn’t a gateway drug. 
Nicotine isn’t a gateway drug. 
Caffeine isn’t a gateway drug.

Trauma is the gateway.
Childhood abuse is the gateway. 
Molestation is the gateway. 
Neglect is the gateway. 

Drug abuse, violent behavior, hypersexuality, and self-harm are often symptoms (not the cause) of much bigger issues.

And it almost always stems from a childhood filled with trauma, absent parents, and an abusive family.

But most people are too busy laughing at the homeless and drug addicts to realize your own children could be in their shoes in 15 years.

Communicate. 
Empathize. 
Rehabilitate.

— Russell Brand

When I first saw this, it hit me hard. The weight of that truth sunk into my core. Although he doesn’t specifically mention food, when it’s abused food can be just as dangerous! When I started to take on the challenge of my weight I had to consider the source! What is the root of my eating? It wasn’t only WHAT I was eating (calorie math) but WHY was I eating (complex algorithm)?

I was stagnant in my behaviors for years. I discovered that despite how I felt about myself the greater risk was in changing. It was far easier to stay the same! I willingly chose a life where I was so miserable in my own skin because even though I was unhappy with myself it was far more comfortable to stay in my misery than to attempt to do something and potentially fail… again. I knew my misery and ended up making it my friend. I was the flower that wouldn’t bloom but I didn’t have the strength to consider switching my environment!

Looking back, I see how taking the steps to work on myself contributed to a change in my environment. To be successful in how you live after surgery you have to be able to eat according to a plan. Before surgery I’d often order food or go out to fast food. I’d have a steady supply of ice cream, chocolate, and cookies at my disposal at all times! You can’t do that after surgery. The first environment I changed was my kitchen! I didn’t even realize that’s what happened!

If you’re struggling or lost, have you considered what in your environment is hindering you? Look around and take stock. Then look inside and try to uncover the roots. Having the courage to honestly get to truth of your weight and being willing to challenge the environment around you will lead to success.

After 30 Days – The Results

In the month of May I had my sinus surgery after a non-stop year of sinus infections that started to impact my overall wellbeing. As I started to heal I noticed just how far from the basics I was living. After RNY Gastric Bypass Surgery you have to be so diligent with food, movement, and daily habits and here I was over 4 years out and being too “busy” to get to the business of weight management.

Too busy. It’s really the most basic excuse and there is to justify why I was no longer paying attention. Taking stock of how I was feeling, what I was eating, and how I was moving made me realize that I needed to hop back on the wellness train. I’ve gained some weight in the past couple years and I stopped journaling my food about 6 months ago. Once you start slacking on your routines the inevitable is coming. Regain is an epidemic with weight loss surgery. If you don’t stay diligent then you have the potential of going right back where you started from. I definitely didn’t want to do that.

So what do you do? You get right back on the horse! I know what works, I’ve done it before, and it was time to do it again. I decided to take 30 days and really go back to the beginning focusing on these core things:

Eat well
Stay hydrated
Increase Daily Movement
Keep a Food Journal
Meal Plan and Prep
Check in with Friends

These were the foundations of my beginning with weight loss surgery. I needed to go back to that kind of diligence. In looking for a plan to help with meal prep I decided to do the Whole 30 because it fit with my goals and there are limitless resources to assist you with doing it. You can find information about the Whole30 here: Whole30.

Primary Foods to Eat During Whole30:
Vegetables
Fruits
Unprocessed Meat, Seafood, & Eggs
Nuts & Seeds (no peanuts or peanut butter)
Certain healthy oils and fats

Primary Foods to Avoid During Whole30:
Junk food
Fast Food
Sugar
Processed Food
Alcohol
Dairy
Legumes
Grains
Bread
Preservatives
Caffeine

I have a complicated history with scales and weigh ins. I like that the Whole30 doesn’t want you to weigh yourself or take any measurements for 30 days. Just do the work and trust the results will follow. I let all of my readers and social media friends know what I was doing as a means of support. For me, it also keeps me diligent. If I tried to do this on my own and it became too challenging I know I’d be the first to quit if no one knew what was happening. I wanted to regularly check in. Not only did I get to support others, but their support was so healthy for me.

I spent 30 days reading labels of all my food diligently checking for sugar and preservatives. I planned all my meals and prepped weekly. I learned to coook with ghee to avoid the dairy part of butter and discovered new ways of introducing veggies into my food. My husband was not too thrilled at first with the Whole30 and he ended up loving the dinners we created and new methods of cooking. The best part is that we took the time to cook together and eat together which was something that we let our “busy” schedules convince us was impossible. It wasn’t our schedules, it was our priorities.

So what happened after 30 days?

Clearer skin
Better sleep
Easier digestion
More energy
No more daily coffees
No sugar cravings
AND
I lost 24lbs in 30 days which I absolutely didn’t expect!

After RNY Gastric Bypass many people believe that the “work” of weight loss is over. That’s actually where the work begins and you have to keep working it for a lifetime or you run the risk of the behaviors you had before to re-emerge. It’s never too late to STOP, cycle back to the beginning and get back to basics to get Back on Track!

Give yourself 30 days and get right back at it!

For tips, tools, and motivation be sure to like my page on Facebook!

Thank you!



Farewell 2018

Thank you 2018. What a whirlwind year! Goals achieved, dreams realized, and relationships cultivated; tempered with loss of loved ones, physical health issues, and personal challenges. From the joy of publishing my book and speaking on the famous red dot of TEDx to the tragedy of losing my aunt, this has been a year.

What I’ll take from every joy and pain of 2018, is that life ebbs and flows moment by moment. We tend to trick ourselves into the newness of a year on January 1st but a new opportunity is born every second. Not just on January 1st, not on Monday morning, but every moment you’re alive is a chance to do better or be better. Don’t get sucked into the hype of a new year. Be present in moments. If you stumble, all is not lost! With the simple blink of an eye, by the grace of God, you can try again.

Thank you 2018. If you’re reading this then my heartfelt thanks to you! What a gift and pleasure to share this space with you all. I can’t wait to show you what’s planned for 2019!

God Bless!

Regina

Perfectionism, Food Issues and Karate

I’m definitely a perfectionist. I like things done. Right. The first time. I like doing things well and I’m obsessed with things like order and placement. From a marketing perspective this can be considered great or even ideal. One thing that really changed my life was when I discovered perfection’s back story. Perfection is really fear, anxiety, and procrastination doing an elaborate dance.

What does that mean? I can’t speak for all people, but I can certainly speak to my own experiences. Looking over my past behaviors – which was essential to weight loss – I discovered that I would often opt to do NOTHING if I couldn’t do it PERFECTLY. Inevitably, the task I needed to do would likely take more time to complete but I’d want to do it immediately. If I didn’t have the time to do that, I’d leave it to another day.

Perfection is merely procrastination in a tuxedo.

In our last house I had an office studio where I’d make personalized items. After the holiday season it was usually a wreck. I’d open the door and want to clean it to sheer perfection. Realizing how that was impossible I’d simply shut the door and wait until I had more time. If I did get to the place where I’d actually tackle it, I’d often get so overwhelmed at the enormity of it all and shut down. Greetings Anxiety! I knew you’d show up eventually!

As I began the process for weight loss surgery, I noticed how a lot of this behavior was not only in office clean up but heavily tied to my food behaviors. I would never say, “I’m going to cook dinner tonight.” I would say, “I’m going to cook dinner every night for the rest of my life!” When I failed once at my Lifetime Cooking Goal I’d go right back to ordering out because I failed.

I had to recognize that I was constantly setting myself up for failure! In my office I could’ve planned to break down what needed to be done into smaller, more manageable tasks, set a deadline for completing those tasks, and worked toward completion. With cooking dinner I could’ve endeavored to cook that one night and work up to cooking more often.

I mind-tricked myself out of my own wellness!

My internal need for perfection would often have me procrastinating until I felt that I could accomplish something perfectly. What a realization!

As I applied this model of breaking things down into smaller and more manageable tasks, I realized it was not just in office cleanliness or wellness that I had this issue. Karate brought out a lot of this behavior. I wanted to have black belt skills as a white belt. Yeah, that’s not possible. I’d often go home after class and beat myself up for not learning fast enough or looking as good as my peers. It was challenging physically and even more mentally.

After a while, you realize that you will only get better with dedication and practice. I am not a black belt so I won’t have black belt skills. What I can do is learn and practice. I will not know anything instantly. I will have to break it down, learn it in pieces, and put it together over time.

One of the most valuable pieces to all of this is the realization that doing something – even something unbelievably small – is better than doing nothing at all. Gracefully bow out of the Dance of Perfection and Procrastination and begin.

Progress not perfection.

Did You Do It Yourself

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to have a booth selling and signing my books at the Rhode Island Women’s Expo. I loved sharing Food, Sweat, & Fears with new people.

Weight is so personal. You could see it in how people chose to engage at the booth. Some didn’t want to engage at all, while others had more curiosity. Many people opened up and shared stories of about themselves or a loved one battling the issues of weight. Most people seemed like they were looking for The Secret Missing Link Of Weight Loss.

The most frequent question was this:

Did you do it yourself?

The battle rages on. People still seem to believe that weight loss surgery has no element of work and is considered “cheating” weight loss. There was a woman who had surgery and called it cheating! I was stunned. She intimately knows how much work is involved in this process and still called it cheating!

My work is not done. I will continue to speak and share my message about the surgical options for weight loss. Surgery is NOT for everyone but removing the stigma from this option can save lives.

Weight loss surgery is not a quick fix or even a guarantee of weight loss. Long term success eludes most people after surgery. This can be directly attributed falling back into unhealthy eating behaviors after surgery. When you’ve spent your life exhibiting poor eating choices – like me – or you use food as a primary coping strategy – like me – this can be extremely challenging. You have to do the work. No matter how you choose to lose weight there will be work to do.

Coming out of the Thanksgiving Food Olympics and heading straight into Christmas Cookie Season, makes me really sensitive to people’s comments. Probably because the hardest workout I do this season is shaking my head from left to right refusing your offers of cookies and cakes.

I have to do that all by myself.

______________

Did you know you can preorder my new, expanded cookbook Healthy Fare today? Ships before Christmas! Check it out here: Healthy Fare

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Here’s a quick recipe I threw together tonight in a rush. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it tasted and even more impressed with how quickly it all came together: Start to finish including prep time was 30 minutes!

In honor of my cookbook coming out soon here’s a recipe to hold you over! Here’s the printable version: stuffed-portobello-mushrooms-recipe-1.pdf

Overwhelming Wellness and the Power of Words

I’ve seen a lot of posts lately from people overwhelmed by their health goals. I totally understand it because everywhere you look there’s a new thing to try that could potentially be better than before. Keto. Low Carb. South Beach. Atkins. They all seem remarkably similar.

What do you choose?

I’ve discovered that for me it was abandoning all of it. Diet is a dirty word with a limited time connotation. You do it “for a while” then when you try to just live your life after the “diet” is over you’ve likely gained the weight back and more.

There’s a lot of power in words like “diet” and even “cheat meal” carries some weight. This meal that you can take advantage of for another limited time that usually brings you only emotional relief and no real nutritional value.

Now, let’s look at “junk” foods. You know what they are: chocolate, sugar, high fats, and usually quite delicious. They are also the first things you remove when you’re on a “diet.” “Healthy” foods are usually things like vegetables and kale and often carry the weight of a necessary evil in a diet.

Are you seeing the power of these words? Have you noticed when you eat “junk” you feel like junk? Or a “cheat” meal makes you feel like you’re getting away with something? Don’t you always want most what you cannot have and it almost seems sweeter when you “get away with it?”

Imagine there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Is it possible that food is food? Can a cinnamon roll drenched in gooey icing have the same word as kale? Food really is food BUT cinnamon rolls are less nutrient dense than kale. Ultimately, that’s the difference.

We strive so hard to be “perfect” on our “diets”‘and we often are; yet during that window of time, we’re miserable. We count down the moments to chocolate and bread and we can’t enjoy where we are or what we’re doing.

When I speak at the hospital the most frequent question I get about food is: “Does this mean I can never have (insert what you love here) ever again?” I’m not the Food Police for adults. When I opted for surgical weight loss it was because my weight was completely out of control and I couldn’t manage on my own without outside help. When I took that step I also realized that moderation is not a strength of mine. With RNY Gastric Bypass could I eat chocolate again? I choose every second of every day what goes in my mouth. Will my stomach tolerate it? Most likely not. Could I eat it? Yes. Should I? No. What just happened there?

I took the item I wanted – chocolate – and I ran it through a couple of gates before the gateway of my mouth.

  • Do I want it? Absolutely!
  • Is it nutrient dense? Not at all.
  • Am I helping to maintain my fitness goals with this? No.
  • Is wanting it NOW more important than my long-term goals? No.
  • Why do I want the chocolate? Usually, an emotional response to something troubling me or it just looks darn good.
  • Do I eat it? No.

There is no diet, or cheat meal, or junk food. They are all opportunities. An opportunity to eat nutrient-dense foods that work toward reaching your health goals and less nutrient-dense foods that may hold you back from your goals especially if these decisions continue to outweigh your nutrient dense decisions.

There’s one other interesting caveat to the power of words and your food choices. Calories. I hear a lot of this as well: “I eat good, healthy foods and I continue to gain weight!”

A calorie (kcal) is the amount of heat energy it takes to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (Wikipedia). By this logic, 10,000 calories of ice cream and 10,000 calories of kale are equal. How your body uses the kale and the ice cream will certainly vary and there’s an entire degree program for Bioenergetics that I do NOT have. The groundbreaking thought process here is that you can still have too much of a “good” thing because if you aren’t burning those calories then weight gain is inevitable.

So what do you do?

Try to find a way to make peace with your food. Don’t give it names of good or bad or junk that will subconsciously assign an emotion to what you’re eating. Pass your options through several gates and ultimately decide if it’s worth it for you. My experiences with bingeing food made me very aware that food felt great…. until it didn’t. Find a way to live your life well and if you get a moment of indulgent, less nutrient-dense food then let that be what it is – an option you made. Not a failure, mistake, or any other negative connotation. If it was a decision you wished you didn’t make, acknowledge it and remember the next time your making decisions.

Stop dieting and start living!

Also see: Take Ten Seconds.

Terror, Typos, And Roundhouse Kicks

I’ve blogged for over a decade on various platforms so sharing parts of my life or general observations of the world around me isn’t new. I first got my stride writing on MySpace. Everyone had anonymity through embarrassing screen names which made what you were sharing have a layer of privacy. As the platforms shifted we lost that anonymity. Facebook literally put a face to our feelings and comments. Despite shedding that last layer of privacy, we continue to share. One would think after all these years of sharing that writing a book would be what comes naturally. One would be wrong.

When I started writing I wanted to be open and honest which were two things I’ve spent a lifetime NOT being about my weight. From lying about how much I was eating to how much I weighed, openness and honestly were not a part of my program. Diving into those feelings and emotions were terrifying but the more open I became the better I felt AND the more I realized that I was never alone in those feelings.

Writing was emotionally challenging. The rewrites were unreal. I struggled with sharing too much or too little. I struggled with sharing parts of other people’s stories that overlapped my own since I felt they weren’t mine to tell. Then I struggled with my anxiety.

Should I write this?

Will anyone understand?

What if it’s universally hated?

These thoughts are the devil and sometimes incredibly paralyzing. I’d write, then rewrite, then try again, and again… and again. Then I noticed that these changes and rewrites were really more about delaying progress than seeking perfection. Procrastinators are truly perfectionists with anxiety! I was starting to lose my nerve but I had many books already sold from the preorder so I knew I had to turn off the internal chatter and just do it!

It was then I discovered the intricacies and potentially issues with self publishing. There were formatting problems, platform delays, and shipping issues. With every delay my anxiety was rising because this process was only to take about 40 days from book completion took way longer than that. I wanted my first signing and book pick up to be at Higher Grounds Community Coffeehouse and I had to reschedule it 3 times waiting for my books to arrive. I made the decision to order my pre-ordered books and first round of books to have on hand – sight unseen. An enormous leap of faith for a perfectionist. Even doing this resulted in people ordering from the Amazon bookstore receiving their books before I received mine!

Last Thursday after months of delays and oddball issues my books arrived. In looking them over I noticed some typos and some formatting issues. Things I definitely should’ve caught but I was so concerned with the forest that I failed to see the trees. Amazon’s self publishing arm is very new and apparently still had some kinks to work out from the author end of things. What’s beautiful with self publishing is that the books are print on demand and easily updated. I’m working on this formatting issues and typos now. If you’ve ordered one of these original books thank you and I hope the typos aren’t too distracting from the story itself.

What I’m most proud of is that I did it. Knowing things weren’t completely perfect I still did it. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, once said:

“Done is better than perfect.”

For a person who obsesses over minute details, this is a challenging concept. Historically, I’d rather do nothing than something substandard! I’m discovering that karate is helping me immensely in this area.

When you watch a trained person do a karate move it looks effortless – almost simple. Yet, when you try to mimic the movement you become keenly aware that it is not simple. It’s really a million tiny moves working in perfect harmony! A roundhouse kick is a prime example of that for me. Looks pretty simple, right? You’ve seen it on TV and movies forever, right? Try it. Everyone from Bruce Lee to Steven Stegall to Patrick Swayze made it look easy. It’s not.

My kicks will only improve with the combination of time and training. Time alone will not do it. I could be enrolled in karate for 50 years but if I don’t practice I won’t improve. Training is also not enough. You can learn the basics of a kick in one session but you won’t master it that day. I really want to master it that day! REALLY!

I have to continually remind myself:

I will not master anything immediately.

Procrastination is the devils way of blocking your progress.

I have never been alone in my feelings of self-doubt, anxiety or fear and that sharing that – even imperfectly – is of great benefit to someone who needs it.

And done can really be better than perfect.

Sometimes.

To see Food, Sweat, & Fears on Amazon click Here

Finally

When I offered my new book for pre-sale to the readers of my blog I naively thought I was in the homestretch of the process. I couldn’t have been more wrong. From my own challenges and insecurities of telling such a personal story and wanting to tell it honestly and openly but without compromising the many other stories that intertwine with my own was an undertaking. When I thought I was finally able to communicate my vision without infringing on others I ran into platform issues with publishing that I did not anticipate or account for.

IMG_0615In the midst of this, I was selected to be a speaker at TEDxNewport which was a long-standing dream for me and one of the most incredible times of my life. The preparation for TEDxNewport was extensive and was coupled with the busiest season at work. Needless to say, more delays. I’ll be sharing my TEDxNewport experience when the video becomes available.

Finally, after delays, technical problems, insecurities, and more Food, Sweat, and Fears is shipping!! The pre-sale was successful so they are coming via freight. As soon as they get in my hands I’ll post the pick up locations and book signing dates. The book is now available on Amazon if you did not pre-order. If you’re local, books will be available for sale at signings and some store locations which I will share when finalized. If there’s a bookstore or library you think should have this book reach out!

 

If you’d like me to come to your school, business, or church please contact me through the contact form HERE. Weight is only a part of the story. The issues of anxiety, fear, faith, and self-value are universal and so very necessary right now. Let’s talk!

Click the book (and check out early praise) to go to my Amazon author page! I’m currently working on expanding my first eBook Healthy Fare into a full scale cookbook. Follow my author page to know first when new material is available.

Thank you for your continued support! I am blessed beyond measure!

Bariatric Test Kitchen – No Pie Pumpkin Pie

My favorite season is autumn. Living in New England we are blessed with perfect fall weather. From the crispness in the air and the beautiful foliage on the trees it’s an incredible place to be this season.

Another reason that fall is amazing is that it’s OFFICIALLY PUMPKIN SPICE SEASON! I love the smell of Pumpkin Spice! Can you believe that out of the thousands of pies I’ve consumed in my lifetime, I was never a fan of Pumpkin Pie? Surprises me too. Then one of my friends asked me to test out a recipe she found on one of my favorite websites: Bariatric Eating. It’s the No Pie Pumpkin Pie that was created by the founder of the site Susan Leach. (What does bariatric mean? Click here!)

One of my favorite things to do it take common recipes and make them better for bariatric people OR test recipes that other people give me. So when my friend asked me to test this recipe out a new idea was born! Welcome to the first episode of Bariatric Test Kitchen. It’s where YOU send me recipes and I’ll either make them healthier or try something that you’ve found.

Take a look and let me know what you think! The information to send the recipes is in the video.

 

Thank you to everyone who has supported my first eBook it means a lot to me and I hope you find this quick book helpful especially as you get further along after surgery when things start to get harder.: Healthy Fare:Bariatric Friendly Recipes & Helpful Guides