At New Year 2021, I realized that ever since I moved back to the US, I was gaining a pound every month. After a year and a half, my pants were really starting to not fit. I figured that I’d just pay better attention to what I was eating and cut down on beer. That always worked for me.
However, the end of January rolled around, and instead of losing some of that holiday weight, I packed on another two pounds! Clearly, “paying attention” was no longer working. That, or I was simply paying attention to the fact that I loved my bagels with cheese and proscuittto, beer, doughnuts, beer . . . yeah, this wasn’t neuroscience.
However, I needed something new.
What I was doing wasn’t working.
So finally I bit the bullet and ordered an online diet/exercise program. At that point, I was willing to do just about anything to make the scale budge in the right direction–even cook different meals for the kids and for me!
I chose Sharny & Julius’s Happy, Healthy Mum program because I had just tried Sharny’s pelvic floor program, which was working! (No more peeing my pants when I sneezed.) The actual title of the program made me leery, and whenever I would see the promo photos of Sharny waltzing around in her bikini with her 6 kids, it made me unreasonably irritated. I finally realized that was because I initially assumed that Sharny was British (given the “Mum” in the title of her program), and I thought, “What kind of super tan, British, 30-something woman waltzes around in her backyard in a bikini with her 6 children?” As soon as Sharny opened her mouth and I realized she was Australian, this all no longer bothered me.
Apparently, Australian 30-year-old women can waltz around in bikinis in their packyards, but British women can not. I hadn’t even started the program, but I was confronting all kinds of prejudices I harbored! (Note: it was the backyard that bothered me. Anyone can wear a bikini on the beach!) Now that I’ve grown up a little, British women are welcome to frolic in their bikinis in the patio with the small army they have created, and I will cheer you on!
Anyway . . .
Sharny had two meal plans included in this Happy, Healthy Mum package, and an eight-week cycle of exercise that can be done at home with no equipment in about 10-15 minutes a day. It’s the exercise cycle that first piqued my interest. But it’s the meal plans that kept me going!
The first meal plan she calls “Happy, Healthy Mum” and with it she gives guidelines to follow to eat healthy, balanced, reasonably-portioned meals. It’s a long-term plan that would be ideal for all of us to follow for the rest of our lives.
The second plan is called “Nourish”, and it’s an eight-week, intense diet. This one is not meant to be long-term, but it’s a good way to break an addiction to sugar, jump in the deep end with eating lots of vegetables, and then when the eight weeks are done, figure out a way to balance your new food choices and healthy habits with some of the foods you had been missing.
After just three weeks of eating on the Nourish plan, I was losing the weight faster than I expected, and so backed off a little, eating mostly normally on Saturdays, while following Nourish the rest of the week. Given that quick weight loss at the beginning, it also made me worried, so I started tracking my calories and macronutrients on the MyPlate app. My macronutrients were balanced, and as long as I was paying attention and following the plan well, and my calorie intake was reasonable, too. Sure, it was a great deal lower than I was used to, but it was reasonable.
Best of all, I did feel better. I felt that I was in control of my choices and not letting my appetites be in control of me. However, take that with a grain of salt, because eating disorders can begin by reveling in a sense of control over one’s self and one’s food choices. As with everything, balance is key.
I’ve been off of the hard-core Nourish program for almost a year. I started it because I was interested in eating a plant-based diet, but I really didn’t know where to start. When I started Nourish, I looked at the vegan Nourish option, and said, “Nope–I’ll die if I do that.” So I had a lot of salad with grilled chicken or salmon while on Nourish. Then after I got off of that, I substituted a lot of the meat I was on for beans, tofu, and lentils.
The biggest takeaway for me is that my fridge is still stocked with a LOT of vegetables–and they get eaten! Bread, rice, and potatoes are no longer the basis of what I eat, but they’re a nice side.
Even while on the program, my daughter jumped in with me. However, with her, I made sure she understood that she was not to be cutting calories, but making wise eating choices. She’s been packing her lunches with salads, hummus, fruit, and veggie wraps, but she’ll still happily eat pizza when she doesn’t have time to make lunch before school. And she has now declared that she does not want to go vegetarian, so one of these day she may learn how to cook meat.
Even the boys have, slowly but surely, been making wiser choices. I’ve found a vegan shepherd’s pie recipe that all of us love. Sunnyjim is will happily snack on frozen peas straight out of the freezer. (He prefers cookies, of course. But the peas will do if he knows they’re there and he’s not allowed cookies! I will never restrict peas.) They’ll still eat through a bag of chips if given the opportunity, but they’re more open to eating vegetables than they were.
While I think I’ve always eaten relatively healthy, Happy, Healthy Mum by Sharny and Julius was the swift kick in the butt that I needed to ease me into eating healthy in the US. Or middle age. Or whatever, but my usual tricks no longer worked. Beyond the meal plans and the exercise plan, she includes a helpful online cookbook. Sharny introduced us to some of our new favorites like frozen banana ice cream and gluten-free brownies, which are really, really good on the second of third day after making them!
As I am transitioning to plant based eating, I stumbled upon Forks over Knives on the internet. Apparently, Forks Over Knives was a documentary. But I haven’t seen it yet. Supermarket shelves sock their monthly magazine, but their website is a treasure trove of fabulous, plant-based meals. Their chili recipe has been the chili recipe that I was always looking for . . . I just add half a chipotle to my bowl, and it tastes EXACTLY like what I think chili should taste like (though I do omit the corn and brown sugar).
Throughout my adult life, I’ve been a believer in the phrase, “a kitchen needs only a stove, running water, and a copy of the Joy of Cooking.” That mostly remains true, but a few years ago, I was gifted the Science of Good Cooking from America’s Test Kitchen. They’ve got some amazingly brilliant tips for consistently making excellent pie crusts, french fries, etc. So when I noticed that America’s Test Kitchen published a plant-based cookbook, I had to get my hands on it. I’ve tried a few, and they’re excellent but this is such a huge collection of recipes, it will take me the rest of my life to get through this fabulous cookbook.
Finally, my absolute favorite plant-based cookbook is Plant Over Processed by Andrea Hannemann. Andy also runs a blog, called Earthy Andy, but the investment in her cookbook is well worth it. That’s where I got the fabulous vegan shepherd’s pie recipe. However, she does publish a lot of smoothie bowl recipes, which have been a huge hit will all my kids, even my babysitting kids, who are extra hard to please!
While my weight has gone up and down throughout the year, I now have better tools to get myself back on track after I’ve been eating out too often. I know I feel better when I eat more vegetables, and now I’ve had experience with what it takes to eat 7-9 cups of vegetables a day. Yes, I still fall back into my old habits, but the more often I pick myself up and readjust to my new habits, the better I feel. So, if that encourages anyone else, all the better!
Fair warning–in the future, I may post monthly meal plans, book recommendations, and recipes!
Oh, and despite all that I say that I want to be plant-based–if you invite me to your house, I will eat whatever you make for me! One reason why I’ll never go full-on vegetarian/vegan.
So for those of you who have read this far, thanks for hanging in there! This is a post I was on the fence about posting for months and months, but I’m just at the point where I don’t think I can write anything else until I get this one out of my head.
Featured photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash.