Living to Eat; reinvented.

If I am being completely honest with you, for a moment there I contemplated entitling this post “A new year, a new you!”

*insert crickets here*

Yea . . . I don’t know why a Bally’s Gym slogan plopped into my head, but I think we can agree circumventing that close-call was in my best interest as a hope-to-be-interesting blogger. And probably yours, too, as I might have been further led to laden this post with cheesy aphorisms and platitudes.

After thinking more seriously and less cheesily (Yup, made that up) what it was I wanted to talk about, I came upon another title, which basically sums up the entirety of the content below. *For you skim-readers, there is also a meal-plan at the bottom, if you want to skip the story behind the glory.*

Sorry . . . It’s apparently going to be a slogan kind of day.

As I like to say, “On to the meat!” Note: This phrase has nothing to do with the fact that this post involves food, but my affinity for the meaty — the plentiful, substantial, and intersting — parts of everything: books, movies, conversation, etc . . . You get get my point, I’m sure.

I am not so naive to believe any one of us received a perfectly lovely, rainbows and lollipops, childhood. There’s a reason why we say, “You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to be a teenager again.” Well, I say it, anyway!

My personal battle: over-eating. As a fifteen year-old, I topped out at plump 195 lbs. There are many reasons why I ate more food than I should have, more often than I should have, but truly, this is topic I could expand upon for hours. I will save that story for when/if I am ever a featured “Loser” on The Biggest Loser. 🙂 Watch out, Jillian Michaels; these guns are locked and loaded!

I just can’t seem to stop myself; I apologize.

What it came down to was that I loved — ahem — love to eat. We all do, let’s be honest here. Little else gave me the happiness that a huge bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, entire bag of sour cream and onion chips, or plate of chocolate chip cookies or french fries and ranch dressing did. (If you happen to be hungry at this point in time, please accept my apology. That roll call of deliciousness was insensitive and a little cruel. I can only hope you are still with me and haven’t run off to your pantry in search of a binge. *cups hands around mouth* Come back!!)

Gratifying and reliable. This is what food meant to me personally. When life around me inevitably began to crumble, or when it didn’t meet my expectations, I sought refuge and comfort in food. It many ways, food was the consummate companion: nonjudgmental and always available to hang-out. The problem: like any addiction, the effects are fleeting. The intense sorrow felt when the meal was over before it had started, always left me sickened, ashamed, and desperate, often leading me to seek solace in another poor choice . . .

It was years before I arrived at a healthy place, both physically and mentally. Surprisingly, what impeded me most was not the lack of desire to do away with these bad habits and get in shape — Sorry for the interruption! Very quickly, I just need to share this story. (I’m not sure how many of you remember The Jenny Jones Show, but she often featured these crazy insane make-over stories. I, very literally, dreamed of one day writing to her and requesting an opportunity to storm the stage, showing off my toned fabulous-ness. I had an intense desire to prove to all those teasers that I did it! I lost the weight! Sadly, Jenny’s show is off the air now, so I’ll ask that you’ll be my supportive and enthusiastic audience for a moment. Past and present Cara thank you kindly.)  Here’s the story: when I was fourteen, I somehow managed to snag a very cute surfer-boy. George, wherever you are, thank you for appreciating my curvy bod!  Anyway, one summer day I was sitting faithfully on the rocks of the jetty, watching George adoringly as he glided through the water on his board, his muscles tanned and defined, his hair wet, shining, and a deep orangey-gold from the unnatural shade of blonde he’d dyed it — he was resplendent, let me tell you, like the teenage version of the statue David (Sorry, I’m known to occasionally get carried away from time to time.) George was very popular at this little beach, (Doheny in Dana Point, just in case you wanted to know) and as a local knew nearly everyone. Consequently, I made a few more friends that summer. But there plenty of people that just didn’t get it. Where was the draw? The intrigue with the chunky girl? Well . . . one gentleman decided to find out. Yes, I did say gentleman; though, really there was nothing gentle about him. He was likely somewhere in his forties, and without hesitation suggested that I should probably “Lay off the ice-cream for a while.” Nope. I am not kidding. Those were his exact words. I had never met him before that. My fourteen year-old heart was crushed and humiliated. I was only glad that George hadn’t been present to hear him say this to me. Not because George would have went all Stallone or Jackie Chan on him, but because, why would any gorgeous boy want to be seen with someone who should be laying off the ice-cream. In short, I skipped dinner that night and began taking diet pills. All of which, ironically, actually caused me to gain weight. *mentally punches mean man in the face*

Okay, back to the post. I’ll reiterate my last sentence for fluidity’s sake.

It was years before I arrived at a healthy place, both physically and mentally. Surprisingly, what impeded me most was not the lack of desire to do away with these bad habits and get in shape, but the ignorance of where to start. Commericials, ads, and fitness brochures make the process of losing weight look riduculously and erroneously easy. “All you have to do is eat better! Exercise a little more! Throw away the junk food!” Right. So says the person hopped up on 5 hour energy drinks, munching on celery sticks, and jumping up from the chair to pee every 3.5 minutes due to the dangerously high amounts of vita-water they’re consuming. (FYI — There is such a thing as drinking too much water.) But really, though; why are people so quick to tell you it’s simple and easy? You know what I say to people — in my most sweetest voice, of course — who try and sell me or someone I know that pile of manure?

“You are a liar.”

As someone who’s been there and would rather not lie to you, hear me now: IT IS NOT EASY!!! In fact, most days — at least in the beginning of these changes — you will either be yelling at someone, or crying into someone. It wouldn’t be terrible idea to warn loved ones, especially those residing in the home with you, that you will be undergoing a life-style change. Don’t be alarmed or troubled to wake up one morning and find that you have morphed into a schizophrenic. This too shall pass. Denying ourselves is one of the most difficult battles we as human beings — especially those with addictive like proclivities — will encounter. But there is hope; we can conquer them, one baby step at a time!

But, please, if you hear anything, hear this: if it were easy, there would be no need for Lindora, Jenny Craig, Atkins, Nutrisystem, Medifast, or Weight Watchers. There would be no need for personal trainers, the lap-band, Bowflex, or Thigh-master. No need for lean cuisines, meal bars, “points,”  slim-fast, diet pills. And we wouldn’t be spending billions of dollars on augmentations, namely liposuction and gastric bypass surgery.

Ever wonder why nearly ALL of these companies, services, products, and gimmicks are successful? Well, I’ll tell you. Here’s just a couple of questions I had at the very beginning of implementing change in my diet: What do I eat? How often do I eat? What foods do what for my body? How big is a portion? How do I know how many calories and fat are in foods without labels? How do I tell if I am hungry or only that I think I am hungry? How often should I exercise? How long should I be exercising? Is my time better spent lifting weights or doing cardio? What if I can only run for 5 minutes? Is that equal to someone who is in shape running 30 minutes? When is better to exercise: morning, afternoon, or night? What time should I have my first meal? What time should I have my last meal? How much water should I drink? Should I take fat burners? What’s a healthy amount of weight to lose each week? Each month? Should I be weighing myself? Taking measurements?

If you’re not ready to punch the computer screen, please stop reading this post and immediately consult a psychiatrist; I fear you may be suffering from ataraxia. Ataraxia: “a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquility.” I know it sounds like a good thing, but really it just means you’re an android.

To put it simply, losing weight is wicked-hard. As a teen, I was overwhelmed and gave up over three dozen times before I was really ready to commit. And even then, discouragement and defeat were my two worst enemies. “I can’t” were the words I fought to dispute, until one day I changed my mantra to “I will.” You see, saying and doing or two very different things. Your intentions may be fabulous, but they’re worth a Euro in Beijing if you don’t put them into action. Console yourself with this: what is easy, and requires little sacrifice of self, often times exults the very least sense of reward. It is only when one has been tried and tested, pushed the brink of human capability and limitation, that one will experience true satisfaction and joy.

Onward ho!

Here’s a little something I learned on my own. Fact: breakfast is not the most important meal of the day; each meal is created equally. Over-eating in the morning will do just as much as harm, had you not eaten anything at all. And vice-versa. Depending on what time you start and end your day, you will want to plan on eating anywhere from 6-8 small meals each day. Unless you are Michael Phelps or Lance Armstrong, this will apply to you, even if the extent of your activity is crossing and uncrossing your ankles beneath the desk you sit at for 12 hours. You burn calories just by being alive; however, the amount of calories you consume will vary depending on a few things, including, but not limited to activity level, gender, height, weight, and medical history.

I think you might be ready for some good news. Here it is: You can cheat!!!

I pick two meals every week — for me, Friday and Saturday night work best, as they remain to be date night with the Hubster — to eat to my heart’s content. And, the very, very, very, very, very best part: no guilt, whatsoever!!! All week I have eaten well — I do slip-up occasionally — and exercised. I actually feel proud to unbutton my pants at the end of a meal and behold my food-child. 🙂 Sometimes I prepare by wearing spandex; the stretchier the better, I say!

Okay, so some of you might be thinking, “Two meals? You’re kidding me, right? Why should I be the least bit happy about two measly meals, when I can eat when I want, what I want, and how much I want?” Well . . . you can do that, I suppose, but as you age you will literally start to decay like a rotten tooth. You will feel worse, look worse, and ultimately die years before those taking care of themselves will. Plus, if you are a mother or father, you are leaving your legacy with your children, who will likely pass that on to their children and so on and so forth. My sincerest hope is that you will choose eating to live vs. living to eat.

Taking care of myself is a passion. And though these habits are well established after years of perpetual ingratiation, every single day is still a challenge to me. I will always linger at the candy jar, hover in the cereal aisle, and take deep, wistful whiffs in the designated bakery areas. I do not try to fool myself into thinking I am now a super-hero, immune to all things yummy. Then I would have to say to myself — in my sweetest voice, of course — “You are a liar.”

Accountability can be an amazing asset, but unless you are friends with or married to a robot who can hold your hand 24/7 or stand guard over the fridge and pantry with a rifle and machete all hours of the day, it comes down to you.  You decide.

I would LOVE to answer any questions or help in any way I can. I have 10 years sober under my belt, and while I am not certified or accredited in any way, shape, of form, I am a real human being who found the strength to overcome what was, very honestly, the most trying, seemingly un-defeatable obstacle I have ever come up against.

You can to.

I’ve had many requests for my personal eating and exercise plan. Below is my regiment. It will not work for everyone, because your body works differently than mine. But . . . if you are in the throes of abusing yourself through gluttony, than it IS a place to start. Before I go into that, though, there are a few things I must encourage, starting with exercise.

Exercise Tips:

1) In the words of Nike, “Just do it.” Seriously. I mean that wholeheartedly. Whether it’s a walk around your block, or a swim, or 5 minutes on the bike, just do it. Developing a routine is half the battle, because there will always — repeat, always — be a great excuse as to why you shouldn’t exercise. IE: work, kids, laundry, dinner, tired. Tired is a tough one for me. In fact, as I sit here on my bed writing this, wearing my sport’s bra and sweats, I see the time is approaching 5:30 — the time I leave for the gym. And if I am being frank with you, I really don’t want to go. My husband is cranky because he can’t find a place to schedule our Christmas massages (I feel like I should probably step in and help him), and I have this weird thing going on with my jaw where I can’t open my mouth very far. So, you see, I have excuses, too. But . . . I am going to go, because I know this: I am more likely to stick with something when it is a part of my daily life. Exceptions and allowances are the beginning of self-defeat. So, just do it!

2) Pack lunches when you will be out all day. This works fabulously well! Buy an ice-pack and a cooler, and fill that baby up with make-you-feel-good foods! You are less prone to cheating if you have snacks/meals ready.

3) Have emergency snacks in your car. Jerky (Trader Joe’ s makes a great one) protein bars (Promax cookies and cream is my favorite) and nuts hold up well.

4) When working out, have a pump-you-up playlist ready to go. Music can have a tremendous effect on your psyche. Also, if you’re going to park it on a bike, plan to bring a book! You will pedal faster, and ride longer when your mind is occupied.

Tips when eating:

1) ALWAYS have protein with a meal; you will have more energy and burn more fat if you do. You can find protein in dairy and meats. Nuts, too, but always be careful to portion out a serving size and eat only ONE good fat per day. A few examples of good fats would be nuts, flax oil, avocado, and organic peanut butter. Try and avoid those made with hydrogenated oils.

2) Make sure your bread says whole grain. They will try and trick you by marketing as 100% wheat. It’s not the same thing!

3) Drink a full, 8 oz. glass of water before each meal. I like to keep mine at room temperature; helps it go down in one smooth gulp 🙂

4) Remember, you want to have ONE protein with every fruit, veggie, or grain! And make sure to change it up so you’re not eating the same foods together at the same time every day. All these foods are interchangeable.

5) I think it goes without saying, but if you haven’t already, avoid soda. (Cheat nights exempt.) If you can’t go without, limit yourself to one serving and start weaning yourself off! I won’t go into detail about HOW terrible soda is for your body — especially diet soda!!

6) Give yourself something to look forward to every single day! For me, it’s a GIANT cup of coffee in the morning and a sweet treat at night. The right motivations will help on those days you’d rather pluck off all your body hair than go work-out.

7) The idea is not to “Get skinny.” Unless you are naturally petite or have a ridiculously fast metabolism, having this goal will discourage and defeat you every time. You need to be realistic about your body type. Big-boned isn’t just simply a polite way of suggesting one’s girth. It does exit. I am big-boned. I have wide shoulders and hips and I will never, ever, be a size 5 or below. I just won’t and that’s perfectly fine with me.

8) And lastly, staying fit is about longevity. Yes, you ARE physically capable of dropping 10 lbs in 10 weeks. There’s a hundred cleanses, detoxes, and fasts out there designed to keep you on the pooper and squeeze every last drop of liquid from your body. But guess what? 9 out of 10 of you will gain it all back within the month, and with it, probably a little extra inventory. You’re changing your life-style, not your wardrobe! It will take time and it will take hard-work. Anything worth doing right always is.

Okay. Here’s the schedule/plan.

9 to 11 a.m. Breakfast options: 1) Oatmeal with scoop of protein powder and blueberries. 2) Pineapple and cottage cheese. 3) Slice of whole grain toast with half an avocado. 4) Cottage cheese and apple. 5) Egg-whites with onion, bell-peppers, and sprinkle of cheese. 6) For on-the-go quick meal, grab a Bolthouse protein shake.

11 a.m. Snacks: Low-fat string cheese and plum. 1 non-fat Fage yogurt and blackberries. Cottage cheese and apple. Substitute with any fruit: orange, banana, strawberries, cantaloupe, pomegranate, mango, papaya, kiwi, raspberries. All fruit is salubrious; just pick one!

1 p.m. Lunch options: 1) Protein shake (Take your time and do the research in finding the proper supplement. You want a powder that fits your life-style. I sit most of the day, so I take one very low in sugar, calories, and fat.) 2) Tuna with salsa. 3) Salmon with asparagus. 4) Chicken with edamame.

3 p.m. You’ll want to do one to two more snacks here, depending on what time you eat dinner. I eat late around 8 p.m. so I do two snacks, two hours apart.

Dinner: Be reasonable here. Take a meal from the lunch portion and expand upon it. Add a salad (watch the dressing) add more veggies ( I love sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash) Have about 4 oz. of protein, more if you are exercising consistently.

Desserts: I pick two from the list. 3 small pieces of dark chocolate, (Dove or New York Peppermint Patties) A Popsicle. Popcorn (home-made with an air popper), Jell-O. A small serving of frozen yogurt from Yogurtland. Mmmm

There you have it; my Cara-fied plan. Please feel free to leave comments or e-mail directly if you have questions about anything!

I wish most fervently that I could provide you before and after pictures. Unfortunately, all our albums are packed away in a Pod for the time being and my family members are unable to immediately supply me with a teenage Cara photo. Capricious girl that I am, I rather get this post up than wait. So, I will do my best to upload one as soon as I get it. Until then, below is an after picture, of me wearing a Christmas present I designed. When I’m rockin’ this shirt, I feel accountable to myself. The urge to push myself to the limit, sweat a little more, and earn these words and the right to apprehend them, springs forth. Whatever works, right?! And yes, I couldn’t resist showing off the guns a little. 🙂 I work very hard for them!

10 thoughts on “Living to Eat; reinvented.

  1. Wow Cara, I always thought of you as being skinny and young!. I had no idea you thought so much about your Really the part of you being 195 lbs. was unbeleivable. It just goes to show you. Everyone has to work at health. It doesnt come freely.

    Great Info!

    • Ah, Patrick, you are too kind, my friend! And you must know that you are an inspiration to me. One day I will make it to your running camp . . . Those outdoor adventures frighten me; I much prefer the safety of a treadmill that doesn’t go anywhere. LOL!

  2. What a great post!! It is so invigorating to see other people put so much emphasis on being healthy, and healthy eating habits. We are a very health minded family, and it is not always easy or convenient. Your post needs to be shared…it shows you have done it, worked hard, had set backs, but kept at it. Thanks so much for writing this!

    • Thank you, Teresa! I am so glad you enjoyed the read and found it invigorating 🙂 Great word, btw! Please feel free to share with anyone you feel might glean something from the commiseration of having once been there. The eating plan is just a start, and as I mentioned, will need to be modified depending on a few things, but I truly hope it gives people stuck in a rut of discouragement the hope of knowing that it IS possible! I appreciate your words, thank you for taking time to comment!


  3. Inspiring Cara! Just printed off your ‘diet plan’ to put on the fridge. Have gained and lost so many times in my later adult life. My family has hit some bumps these past few years and I could so relate to finding comfort in food. I find my weight up once again, but was just too weary of it all to read one more diet book. I just needed something simple. Thanks and best wishes with your blog! 🙂

    • Thank you, Kelly! I can’t tell you how thrilled it makes me knowing that this article, even if only in the tiniest bit, was an encouragement to you! That was certainly my intention when I set out to share my story 🙂 And if in the future you have any questions about anything — food, exercise, whatever! — please don’t hesitate to ask. I wish you great success with the eating plan and I would love to hear updates from you, good or bad 🙂 When (I always use when, instead of “if) I hit rough patches, I remind myself that healthy-living a journey, not a sprint. Give yourself grace to slip-up and have setbacks. Those are part of the process, too. 🙂

  4. Hey Cara,

    I read this blog after reading your blog today and seeing how much you cared for it. I am really happy you mentioned it because it was very inspirational! I think almost every girl at some age has issues with her weight. I have had a different struggle but can understand all the feelings; especially with the jerk 40 year old man’s comment. Uh! even thinking about someone saying that to me now as a 22 year old married woman would make me burst into tears! Anyways, I would love to hear more about your healthy lifestyle the next time we get some girl time! I would love to try it! To be honest I never had to worry about my weight until a couple of years ago! Man I miss my high school metabolism/body! Ha well I just love you and thanks again for sharing.

    • You are SO wonderful to take the time to sit down and read this incredibly lengthy article! So, so glad you were inspired by reading and I am more than eager to help in any way I can. I’m sure I mention this in the article, but eating right starts with being realistic and practical. Some people are wired to be disciplined, to say no to carbs and sweets, and be just fine. Others need to have something sweet or salty in every meal. There are ways to work “with” your cravings, so that it doesn’t feel like torture to be healthy!

      Love you!!!

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