When I got gutsy — and finally lost that weight

I wasn’t sure I could do it.

And I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

I’d grown used to being the curvy girl — the one with the “pretty face.” Even as my dress size climbed through my teens and twenties, I refused to give in to self-doubt. I didn’t want to focus on my weight — even though, in reality, I already was.

When I needed larger jeans, I bought them.

When I wanted to have a second cupcake, I did.


Christmas cupcake


I’d gotten listless, cranky, easily tired or sick. But I wasn’t a woman accustomed to depriving herself or scaling back. I was afraid to address the issue of my climbing weight because I “didn’t want to obsess about it,” as I told my fiancé. The idea of a weight loss program where I’d have to track points — and be held accountable for everything that passed through my lips — intimidated the heck out of me. I played it off as an annoyance, but the truth?

The truth was that I was scared.

The idea of joining Weight Watchers* had entered my mind years before, mostly as a method of control, but I shunned it because I was afraid my “last-ditch effort” to get healthy with the program wouldn’t work . . . and where would I be then?

I’d tried the gym, sweating miserably on a treadmill and bored out of my skull. I’d briefly embraced Zumba classes, trekking out on weeknights to dance with coworkers until an injury sidelined a friend . . . and I used her absence as an excuse to bail.

I went through a phase where I upped my veggie intake, tried to scale back on eating out, stepped away from my favorite hobby — baking — so we wouldn’t have so many goodies hanging around.

Nothing worked. After a while, I always slipped back into my old routines.

I just didn’t have the right tools.

Though I’m probably going to come across as a Weight Watchers disciple, I really feel passionate about the program — because it changed my life. WW became my new home-away-from-home in mid-January 2013, the day after a minor car crash rocked my world. No one was hurt, thankfully, but it was my first real accident — and it shook me to my core. Plagued by sudden “what ifs?” and anxiety, I suddenly knew it was time to get serious . . . about my life.

I’d been engaged for less than a month, heavier than I’d ever been, and suddenly dealing with two weddings to plan — mine and my sister’s. As I talked with insurance companies about my car accident and tried not to imagine what would have happened if the truck that hit me had been going just a little faster on a dark night, I began to process my impending move from my parents’ house while my fiancé and I simultaneously discussed guest lists and wedding venues.

I was overwhelmed. When Spencer started talking about weight loss, I felt emotionally exhausted — and not ready to even try. I almost let those little fires, those anxieties, keep me from ever stepping foot into Weight Watchers. But when my fiancé suggested going to a meeting “just to try it out,” something told me to go.

It took guts for me to walk into that first meeting — to finally admit I wanted to change. I was so afraid of losing confidence, of “admitting defeat” about my physical self, that I resisted the idea of needing to get healthy.

But I’d seen family members and friends felled by illness. I had my own health scare a month earlier — at a time when I should have been celebrating my engagement. At 28, I knew my body wasn’t going to simply “bounce back” from poor decisions.

It was time.

To everyone’s shock — especially my own — I embraced Weight Watchers with a vigor typically reserved for religion. From the moment I was handed the tools to make better decisions about my food and my life, I gained a sense of confidence. Instead of deprived, I felt empowered.

Tracking my food came naturally, lending a sense of control to an area of my life that had felt haphazard for so long. I rediscovered my love for fruit and vegetables, especially apples, and learned new ways to prepare them. I started (healthy) snacking.


Apple


I’d been worried I’d become “obsessed” with what I was eating, tracking everything to a T . . . and I did.

But it’s been awesome.

Where once I’d eat a sleeve of cookies and feel guilty all night, I learned to have two, track them and move on with my day. I hadn’t realized all the negative self-talk I’d been foisting upon myself, making less-healthy decisions and then berating myself for them.

Portion control became my best friend. I educated myself on smarter choices, on the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables, on all the little choices I thought were good for me that were actually a form of self-sabotage. In short, I’d been eating way too much — and out of emotion. Food was love, and food was comfort. I ate until I felt full to bursting because . . . that was just what I did.

I had to retrain myself. Retrain my body, retrain my brain.

It hasn’t been easy. It took patience, dedication, discipline. Food had been my drug—my crutch—for so long, and there were times it took a Herculean effort (and literally sitting on my hands) to resist reaching for the bread basket.

But I kept with it, never missing a Wednesday weigh-in, because I knew I was working toward the best possible goal: getting healthy for myself, my family and my soon-to-be husband.

When I took a step back (and I did), I learned to be gentle with myself. To be patient.

When I gained some weeks, I chose to remember I was in this for a lifetime — and that rises and falls were inevitable.

That’s the beauty of Weight Watchers — and why it worked for me: I’m not on a diet. I didn’t start the program with a stopping point in mind, figuring at some mystical point I’d be “done.” Being healthy means you’re never “done” . . . but I didn’t realize that the tiny changes I was making were adding up to a complete reboot of my relationship with food.

Some folks assumed I was losing weight for the wedding, a natural thought in our “Say Yes to the Dress” culture. It was easier to let them think I was another image-conscious bride than to explain the truth: that my engagement was merely the wake-up call I needed to realize the rest of my life was waiting, and I didn’t need to bring all those extra pounds into it. It was about so much more than a white gown.


Hands and dress


I dropped 4 lbs. in the first month, amazed to see the number on the scale sliding down. I’d grown so used to cringing at the doctor’s office, the only time I ever weighed myself, that wanting to peer at those digits was a new feeling.

I tried on and bought a wedding dress in March, already 10 pounds lighter than when I’d started — but I’d have to leave it for alterations in August after losing three dress sizes.

On Dec. 11, almost exactly 11 months since I started the program, I officially hit my goal weight: a number that placed me below the overweight zone for the first time in my adult life. I’ve lost 34 lbs. since Jan. 16, which makes my fingers tingle as I type.

But that’s really just a number.


Weight loss grid

View More: http://birdsofafeatherphotos.pass.us/megan-and-spencer-wedding


What have I really lost? My guilt. My awkwardness. My fear of having my photo taken and pasted on Facebook for all the world to see, wondering how much old friends and acquaintances are judging my appearance. Never one obsessed with looks, it pains me to admit how much I worried about what others thought of my body . . . but I did.

And what did I gain? Confidence. Swagger. Comfort. Peace. A sense of control that was so lacking in my everyday life—the idea that I’m not ruled by food, though I can still enjoy it (and do). If anything, I enjoy food more now — because I’m making better choices, ones that make me happy. Because I don’t eat pumpkin pie twice a week, my rare indulgence tastes sweeter than the sweetest thing in the world.

I feared weight loss would be all about deprivation. That I’d have to starve myself, get angry with myself, berate myself. That I’d feel so much worse before I’d feel better.

But I feel awesome. I’ve felt motivated and empowered from the beginning. For finally doing something instead of just talking, talking, and for committing to my health.

For committing to myself.

Standing here at the “finish line,” I know my journey is really just beginning — and I feel far more than 34 lbs. lighter. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders, literally and metaphorically, and if I’d known I could feel this good? Well, I would have done this years ago.

It started with a single step: acknowledging that I wanted to change. And with the encouragement and support of my husband, family and friends, I just kept taking tiny steps toward one happy Megan.

But it was a solitary journey, too: one I began for myself.

And I am proud. Very proud.

If you’re thinking about tackling a challenge and getting gutsy in 2014, remember that the time is now. Every cliché you’ve ever heard about committing to yourself and being worth it is absolutely true. You are worth it, and you can do it. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

Be your own biggest fan . . .

. . . and if you’re looking for a sign, as they say?


This is it


Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. This is my entry in Jessica Lawlor’s #GetGutsy Essay Contest.
To get involved and share your own gutsy story,
check out this post for contest details.


*This post was not sponsored by Weight Watchers — I’m just very passionate about the program. All opinions are my own. Though I was not asked to nor compensated for sharing my thoughts, clicking on a Weight Watchers link and signing up for the program may grant me a referral credit.


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Ten pounds — meeting my first weight loss goal

Bananas


The week I joined Weight Watchers, I was feeling pretty low. Despite getting engaged less than a month earlier and still feeling the jolt of excitement about that, I was overwhelmed — emotionally, physically, financially. Combined with getting in a minor car accident the night before, signing up for a weight loss program just felt like another source of guilt and frustration. Especially since I wasn’t sure I could succeed.

It was mid-January: gray and listless, cold and drab. I was out of sorts and anxious. After talking about wanting to lose weight for more than a year (and dealing with a health scare in December), my fiance suggested we join Weight Watchers together. Feeling as bad as I did, I agreed. Spencer met me at our local spot on a Wednesday night, arranging for us to sign up and do this together, and his presence calmed me . . . but I wasn’t convinced.

Because food is awesome.

Snacks and meals are more than sustenance: for so long, they were also comfort. Nothing makes me crankier than walking around feeling hungry, and nothing sets me up for a meltdown like being denied a good meal. “Good meals” for me were filled with my favorites: pastas and breads; cakes and candies; vegetables simmered in balsamic vinegar. Spencer loves to cook, and I love to chow down. A match made in heaven!

Here’s the thing: my story isn’t unique. Like many of us, I was physically active in college out of sheer necessity; going to school on a huge campus, I could easily walk five miles a day just getting from classes back to my car. Despite never being “skinny,” I could eat what I wanted because I was out and about so much. My weight wasn’t a huge issue.

Then came graduation. Leaving College Park for a desk job meant I was now sitting eight hours a day, and exercise and I have never been buddies. The constant advice to “find an activity you love!” has just never worked for me . . . because seriously? Don’t like running, don’t like dancing, don’t like the elliptical. My stint at the gym was a failure — and the fees piling on my credit card for unused passes another source of guilt. Though I initially liked Zumba and attended regularly for months, making the meetings became a strain on my schedule. But honestly, I just didn’t want it enough. Because I didn’t change my thinking or my eating, I saw no results.

As they always say: If you want it, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Well, I ran out of excuses. Less than a year from my wedding day, I was by far the heaviest I’d ever been. Despite being overjoyed at the idea of our marriage, I had triggers igniting stress in so many facets of my life . . . and I still do, of course. I just feel better equipped to handle them.

Because I took control.

I’m far from a health guru, and I can only speak to my own experience. I don’t work for Weight Watchers and am not an expert on the program, either, but here’s the thing: in less than two months, I’ve already lost 10 pounds. I’m back in pants I haven’t been able to wear in years. I no longer dread clothes shopping, and I loved seeing myself in my future wedding dress (that’s another post!). In celebration of meeting the first of my goals, losing 5 percent of my weight, I bought my first pair of “skinny jeans” — and am actually okay with wearing them in public. To work, even. And it isn’t the scariest thing I’ve ever done.


Skinny pants


The path still stretches out before me. At 5’2″, I’m still 25 pounds from the “high” end of my suggested weight — and am still considered obese. But 10 pounds? That would have been crazy to pre-January me. But seeing myself in photos from Christmas and getting a glimpse of myself now, I can already see a tremendous change . . . and I just feel better.

Happier.

More confident.

More in control.

And proud.

Does Weight Watchers mean giving up your favorite foods? Well, yes and no. Not giving them up, but changing your portion sizes. And the frequency with which you eat them. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the program, but the jist of it? Keep track of everything you consume and keep it under a certain limit each day. Do this — really, honestly do it — and you will lose weight.

I’m not forgoing cupcakes forever and ever. I am definitely still eating out. Heck, I’m not even exercising . . . at all. (Though I do plan on changing that soon, and I know it’s nothing to brag about!) What I’ve done? Realigned my thinking and kept serious track of everything I eat.

For an OCD list-maker like me, tracking my food and drink has been much simpler than expected. I actually love the science of adding points and tracking, and religiously update my personal tracker after each and every meal or snack. And here’s what else I’ve learned:

You can’t eat what you don’t have. This works both ways, y’all: I can’t eat the bad stuff if I don’t have the bad stuff, and I can’t eat the good stuff if I haven’t stocked up on it. I need healthy snacks on hand 24/7, and my favorites include the 100-calorie packs of almonds as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. And in that vein . . .

Keep it accessible. Look, I’m kind of lazy (see: hates to exercise). If a snack requires me to cut, peel or dice at work, where I spend most of my time, I won’t bother. Sitting at my desk means I have limited resources as far as cutlery is concerned, so I make sure to prepare my fruit in individual portions before I leave for the day. I wash and rinse grapes, for example, putting them in cute little bags, and then I grab them from our mini-fridge at work and get to snacking. Much better than rooting around in my coworkers’ candy bowl when the 3 p.m. munchies hit.

Watch your portions. Pre-Weight Watchers me didn’t necessarily eat terribly, but she ate too much of everything. Honestly track your portions and remember that eating several small meals rather than two or three giant ones can do wonders for boosting your metabolism — and keep you from crashing. I’ve shifted from eating a big lunch and bigger dinner to a small lunch (low-calorie soup and a low-fat cheese stick) with several healthy snacks before dinner. I rarely go more than an hour or two without eating something, and I make sure to eat a small snack after dinner, too.

Don’t walk around hungry. As soon as a twinge of hunger hits, I reach for an apple or the like. Allowing myself to get too hungry means I’m in danger of crash-eating later in the evening, overindulging in dinner or snacking like a maniac. This ties in with my first point, too: you can’t eat it if you don’t have it. So keep it around.

Breakfast really does matter. Old me would either skip breakfast completely or eat a measly granola bar, then walk around hungry for hours before going for a huge lunch (which would just sit in my stomach until dinner). New me doesn’t let herself get to the point of “starving,” and makes sure to eat something healthy and protein-rich — like low-fat Greek yogurt and bananas — each morning. Though I’m far from a breakfast person and don’t like to eat big meals in the morning, this has made a huge difference. It really does matter.

The buddy system works. Let others know about your journey. Starting on this get-healthy journey with my fiance has made a huge difference — and just having the support of another person is so crucial. I’m also very lucky that my friend and officemate is also on Weight Watchers, so we swap tips all week long! Another friend has just joined the program, too, and we met for a “Weight Watchers-friendly” lunch earlier this week. Letting others know about your goals really will make a difference.

Have a plan. When I know I’m going out for a meal, I pull up their menu ahead of time to figure out the best options for me. This eliminates awkwardness when out with others (I hate having to be on my phone at the table, perusing the Weight Watchers app), and keeps me from making impulsive decisions. When I know I’m cooking, I calculate various ingredients and actively work on “lightening” the recipe.

It’s okay to be tempted. Before embarking on this change, I would still eat dessert — but feel terribly guilty about it. Here’s where I go all Weight Watchers very-unofficial spokeswoman on y’all, but that’s the great thing about this particular program: it doesn’t require you to follow a diet. No food is “banned.” I simply keep track of what I’ve eaten that day, budget in the cupcake or candy, and go about my business. Guilt: eliminated. As long as I’ve stayed within my daily points allowance (or even if I haven’t), it ain’t a big deal.

And that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned so far . . . I can do it. I am strong enough. Just because I can’t have a cupcake today doesn’t mean I can’t — or won’t — tomorrow. I’m not eating weird things; I’m not unfulfilled and chowing down on diet food. I’m still sharing meals with my loved ones, still enjoying cool meals out with friends, still doing all the normal things I’ve always done . . . I’m just making smarter choices while doing it.

And physical success aside, it feels good to have found an aspect of my life where I can make positive changes and see real results. Not having “need to start losing weight!” in my headspace has opened me up to new opportunities, and I haven’t dreaded seeing doctors for routine appointments. I’ve proven to myself that I can lose weight, and that feels amazing. Regardless of whether I drop another 2 lbs. or 20, I’m just seriously proud of myself for altering something I once considered set in stone.

And that’s what I’ve been up to.


Just a little taste

Menu tasting


I could totally go to food tastings every day.

Well, maybe not every day. But most days. Maybe the ones ending in “-day.” Or something.

Spencer and I had our menu tasting at the venue over the weekend with our awesome wedding coordinator, Jennifer, and I’m even more excited about the big day having sampled a certain apple-glazed chicken that will dance in my memory for a while. Even with saving a cache of my Weight Watchers anytime points, I didn’t go crazy last weekend — and managed to try a little bit of everything without quadrupling my caloric intake. And I totally stayed on plan.

It’s a struggle. But I’m doing it.

In four weeks, I’ve actually lost 7.6 lbs. — a feat I would have thought impossible just a month ago. My favorite dress pants, the ones I bought when I got my first office job, actually fit again. I’m back in my “normal” dress size, the one I wore for about a decade, and actually find that most of my pants are a little baggy. And this is all very exciting!

I have a long way to go — and I realize that the weight won’t continue to disappear with every grape and apple and orange slice. But by making small changes to my eating habits and altering my diet, especially when it comes to portion control, I’m already seeing results — and actually look forward to weighing in each week.

Who would have thought?

Though let’s see how I do at the cake tastings . . . can we say gateway food?


Meats

Appetizers


Staying on ‘Plan’

Donuts

Only a real masochist would put a photo of doughnuts
at the top of her post on weight loss.


So. Because I’m getting married in 10 months . . . and because I’m getting older . . . and because I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been . . . and because I want to be well enough to travel the entire world someday . . .

We made a bold move last week: my fiance and I joined a popular weight loss program. Just nine days into the regimen, I won’t pretend like changing my eating habits hasn’t been challenging — and a little depressing at points! — but I actually feel more in control of my life and diet than ever before. Something about the adherence to fresh, healthy foods and focus on protein has forced me to pay attention to everything I’m consuming, and here’s what I’ve already learned . . .

I stress eat. When the emails stack up and my calendar fills, I reach for whatever is handy and convenient — and if that’s a bar of chocolate, so be it. This requires pre-planning on my part — and having good things on hand. I’ve already loaded our office mini-fridge with oranges, apples, celery, low-fat cheese and Greek yogurt. Much better than the granola bars, crackers and Peeps I typically keep on hand.
I mindlessly eat. If I’m waiting for dinner, I think nothing of reaching for a few cookies to tide me over until it’s served. I don’t even think about it. If desserts are stacked on the counter, I just reach over and take one. And I eat it. Another 200 calories — and I didn’t even blink.
I don’t like eating lunch at my desk. Though I realize it’s not financially awesome of me to eat out most days, I enjoy the experience of getting out of the office for an hour. Which means I need to be really strict and faithful about tracking what I’m eating when dining out, and research menus beforehand so I’m not making (the wrong) split-second decision. It’s all about points.

Yes, friends: points. My life has been consumed by points. Every food and drink has a point, and each point is measured . . . up to my daily total of 27. Twenty-seven points. I can’t say “27” had much significance for me until last week, but now I’m constantly tracking and adding and adding and tracking every little ol’ thing up to that magical digit.

The weird thing? It’s really not that bad.

I realize that, only a week into the program, the rosy glow of new love hasn’t yet rubbed off. I’m speaking from a place of early excitement at having found something that might work for me — 1.2 lbs. down last week! — and know that, eventually, my enthusiasm will wane.

But in the meantime? It feels good to have made a decision about my health — and to be doing something about it. That’s what I told Spencer yesterday: it isn’t enough to just talk about things, of course; we must do them. And for someone who struggles with her weight, just being on a ‘Plan’ — even a tough one — has cleared up so much space in my brain. Every time I try on something that doesn’t fit or I feel tired or I have to squeeze into a pair of pants that fit just months ago, I think, It’s all right — I’m working on it.

And the great thing is, I actually am.


Book talk: ‘S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim’ by Cynthia Sass

Many of us struggle with our weight.

I don’t know when being “chunky” first entered my realm of consciousness. Though I was a little heavy as a kid, I never worried about it; my family certainly didn’t comment on it, and whatever self-esteem issues I had as a teen didn’t stem from my appearance. In college, my brisk walks across the University of Maryland’s sprawling (and I do mean sprawling) campus kept me lean and mean . . . even as I downed my daily meal of Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets between classes.

Of course, like so many, those carefree days of cupcakes and soda couldn’t last forever. Taking my first desk job in 2007, I’ve worked in an office — on my rear end for more than eight hours a day — for half a decade. Though the numbers on the scale didn’t immediately jump up, my weight has steadily increased. To date, I’m about 30 pounds heavier now than I was in college. And on my 5’3″ frame, that’s definitely obvious. To me and others.

Still, I don’t lose sleep about my weight; I mean, I’m way more than my dress size. I hadn’t really given my weight a major thought until I started noticing clothes I wore just a year ago were getting snug, and I started hating the way I appeared in photos. In an unguarded moment, my jaw actually dropped when — yes — I saw a recently tagged photo of myself on Facebook. So many chins.

This isn’t one of those “AND THEN I GOT MY ACT TOGETHER!” tales of success, friends; I wish I could spout off my recent accomplishments and how I fell in love with exercise and stopped drinking Diet Coke and dropped four sizes and now feel amazing. I hope that, someday, I’ll come back here to share some of those successes (minus giving up the whole diet soda thing — I can tell you now, that ain’t happening). But I’m not there yet. I’m not even close to there yet.

This whole thing? Getting healthy, getting in shape? As for all of us, it’s an ongoing process. I’ve written about discovering Zumba and the wake-up call that was a visit to my family doctor a month ago. I know that, at 26, I’m no longer young enough to discard health warnings or think, “Oh, those problems won’t happen to me.” I know that if I don’t get myself together now, it’ll be really hard — maybe too hard — to get myself together later. And I don’t want that.

Enter my research phase. Short of developing a way to physically push myself up off the sofa after work to walk or go to class or anything, I’m searching for a way to get myself into a healthier rhythm — through exercise and diet changes — and have turned to my favorite way to learn stuff: books. They’re great, right?

Opening Cynthia Sass’ S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches, I felt a little nervous; for so many, myself included, “d-i-e-t” is a four-letter word. I’ve never been on a diet. Everyone I know on a diet seems to be, well . . . sour-faced. And liable to mouth off at you for daring to eat a piece of cake in front of them. (Jen Lancaster mentioned that in Such a Pretty Fat, and by golly — it’s so true.)

To be honest with you, I don’t want to diet. I really like food. I don’t use food (or lack thereof) to punish myself, and I certainly don’t sit around in a steaming pile of guilt for eating a cookie. Fashion bloggers’ svelte figures don’t send me into a self-hating rage, though I do tend to avoid others’ exercise-obsessed boards on Pinterest. Yeah, I know I’m not exercising; I don’t need perfect abs in my face to remind me I will never, ever look like that.

But that’s all right. I’m all about healthy — and so is Cynthia Sass. An acclaimed weight loss expert, Sass is part of the brains behind the Flat Belly Diet! — a New York Times bestseller from a few years back. She’s the real deal: a registered dietitian board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics, and the sports nutritionist for several major sports teams. Her credentials definitely stack up.

S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim, previously published as Cinch!, is a quick, engaging read that never felt belittling. Sass’ approach isn’t of the “boot camp” variety, using scare tactics and harsh words to intimidate would-be dieters. Despite what I was expecting, this book isn’t just about dropping weight quickly; it’s about making notable, small and valuable changes to your diet to help increase weight loss, improve your well-being and change your quality of life. I dug it.

Sass’ approach is designed to establish order to your meal times and isn’t built off “starving, restricting or depriving yourself,” she states. Reading the book, the plan is actually anything but starving yourself: it’s eating healthy, balanced and specific meals on a schedule, and it emphasized good, clean eating above all else. The “S.A.S.S.” part of the diet has to do with the low-fat, healthy and specific seasonings Sass recommends to cut out fattier alternatives like condiments and salad dressings.

The plan is two-fold: either begin with five days of a calculated eating plan, which Sass sets out for you, or bypass that part and go straight for a 25-day stretch of enjoying specific foods. Here’s how that all goes down:

The optional 5-Day Fast Forward jump-starts your results — up to an eight pound loss in five days. The Fast Forward calls for four simple meals a day, made from clean, delicious, detoxifying, filling, nutrient-rich foods shown to support weight loss. [Sass] even include[s] a grocery list that specifies all the ingredients you’ll need (and recipes!), so preparing for the Fast Forward (which is vegan and vegetarian friendly) is a breeze.

The 25-day plan again calls for four meals a day, but draws from a much broader but specific array of food choices. A day’s worth of meals can potentially include: a Chocolate Pear Ginger Smoothie for breakfast, Fresh Mozzarella Basil ‘Pizzalad’ for lunch, Shrimp Creole for dinner, and a snack of Cranberry Parmesan Herbed Popcorn! With this core plan (also vegan and vegetarian friendly and adaptable for gluten free diets), you can easily drop a size in just one month.

Reading Sass’ plans and goals, I was nodding my head vigorously and imagining myself snacking on the five foods she emphasizes in the 5-Day Fast Forward: raspberries, non-fat plain organic yogurt, spinach, almonds and organic eggs. She states from the get-go that the Fast Forward is optional — so those who aren’t interested or don’t want something to structured can skip this completely and get right to the 25-day meal plan.

The book does a great job of including materials that can actually get you started — and, in my case, these cut down on my excuses to not give it a try. Grocery lists outline everything you’ll need to get going, and the foods listed? Well, I already like ’em. The book includes real-life recipes, personal stories from those who have found success with the plan and plenty of sidebars to break up the text. This isn’t a long, droning health book you must read cover-to-cover before beginning; you can breeze through the early chapters, get a feel for the routine and get crackin’. As I was reading, I just kept thinking, “This is doable.”

For me, the highlights of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim are the success stories — with before-and-after photos (who doesn’t love those?). Women (and men!) describe how they made the plan fit into their busy lives, how it’s benefited them and how they manage to keep up with it long term. There’s the bride who had to return a size-12 wedding dress for a size 6, the couple who dropped weight together and those who shed pounds within the first week of going on the Fast Forward.

Of course, the careful individual in me views those “drop weight fast!” claims with a skeptical eye — not because I don’t believe it’s possible, but because I’m unsure whether it’s healthy. Still, Sass’ plan is certainly not based on starvation or traditional dieting, and the science behind the weight loss makes sense. Of course, there’s no substitute for good old fashioned exercise, too. Just check it all out to be sure it makes good sense to you.

So am I ready to S.A.S.S. myself slim? I’m getting there. Since starting the book a week ago, I’ve found myself picking it up often before bed and grabbed many of Sass’ recommended foods on my last grocery store run. Though I’m not ready to do the Fast Forward or commit whole-hog to the 25-day plan, I’ve learned quite a bit about the importance of good fats and how to snack healthier. I’ve already developed a raw, unsalted almond habit (so crunchy!) and am thinking more about the times at which I eat — and how big my portions are. I’ve begun drinking even more water than usual and am trying to limit myself to one Diet Coke a day.

Over the next few weeks, my plan is to incorporate one of her low-calorie recipes as a lunch or dinner substitute every day and go from there. As S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim helped drive home, a healthy lifestyle is a process . . . and a daily, conscious choice. I hope with time it can become second nature. And you know I’ll report back with my progress.


ISBN: 006197465X • AmazonGoodreadsLibraryThingAuthor Website
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion

Office snacking: The messy aftermath. Today at 3 p.m.

popcorn_bowlIn my daily travels around the Internet and various non-profit websites looking for cool articles for the sections I edit at the paper, I’ve come across quite a few whacky stories (see tips on how to tell if you’re husband is cheating on you at Christmas — always a delight!). Most of them aren’t quite that graphic, but many can get a little strange! Often, though, I actually learn a little something myself.

Today’s lesson? Snacking right at work. Those of us spending our days elbow to elbow with coworkers know exactly what it’s like to see that giant box of chocolate chip cookies sitting, often unattended, mere inches away from your fingers. My friend Sandy enjoys popping a nice bag of popcorn around 3 p.m. — and is always generous enough to share. But the constant offerings of candy, coffee and — gasp! — Girl Scout cookies are almost too much to take! It’s as much about boredom and stress as anything, I know, but I have to really watch myself. I mean, I’m pretending to try and lose weight here. I’ve cut out the soda, God help me. And I’m going to start walking on the treadmill. Every other day. For real this time.

So I need to get serious about the no-snacks at work business. I’m generally pretty good about it, but I do eat lunch out almost every day — and often bring a cookie or something back to my desk after my outing. I keep granola bars and the like in a drawer, too (come on, you know you have a snack drawer!), but I’m going to be limiting that as well. And drinking only water. As much as I can stand, anyway . . .

And, according to the awesome article I will be publishing in my health section soon, I will also be:

• Bringing snacks from home. This limits the amount of mooching that will be required on my part to get a little afternoon pick-me-up, plus cut down on the money I’ll spend on snacky treats in the afternoon.

• Relying on flavorful foods. Bland snacks like veggies rarely satisfy that sweet tooth hankering I’m always battling. I’ll try low-fat crackers, especially with peanut butter . . . mmm. Trying to force myself to eat foods I’m not crazy about, like carrots, won’t help me or my psychological craving for junk food. If I’m going to snack, I need to pick something with some taste and nutritional benefits.

• Talking my coworkers into cooperating. My office neighbors (hi, Brandon and Sandy!) are great and rarely contribute to my bad habits, but we have to be a united front. It’s a lot easier to fight off temptation when temptation isn’t a nice, giant and free candy bar sitting on the edge of your desk!